COVID-19 “War Games”: The Computer Program That Could Help You Save Your Job


LONDON (Reuters) – Bank of England chief economist Andy Haldane has pledged to judge the winner of a “war game” designed to help companies find alternatives to mass layoffs in the face of a slowdown caused by coronaviruses.

FILE PHOTO: Bank of England Chief Economist Andy Haldane listens to the audience during an event at the Bank of England in the City of London, London, Britain April 27, 2018. REUTERS / Toby Melville / File Photo

Faced with the most unpredictable pandemic in memory, cost-conscious companies have already cut millions of employees around the world, while UK layoffs hit a record 314,000 in the quarter ended September 30 , according to official data released Tuesday.

Owned by Unilever UNA.AS Tech company uFlexReward created the COVID-19 war game to allow executives to explore the impact of huge job cuts on their prospects for future earnings.

“Many businesses across the UK are facing financial strains as a result of the COVID crisis,” Haldane told Reuters.

“Simulation tools can help us understand how to best alleviate these tensions while preserving jobs, in a way that helps both companies when making difficult business decisions and policymakers when making difficult business decisions. difficult economic decisions.

The game, designed during Britain’s first lockdown this year and available for free on the uFlexReward website, calls on gamers to devise a strategy to cut human costs at a shell company by 20%.

Participants weigh the pros and cons of large-scale layoffs against the alternatives, for the long-term benefit of the business as well as the economy in general.

It brings together staff salaries, pensions, bonuses, and stock awards into a real-time cost base, helping players see more clearly the different ways to reduce overhead.

This can include many more modest cost reductions in a so-called “broad” approach, rather than a significant saving in more targeted reductions like the elimination of entire business units or the staff bonus pool.

Financial firms have historically cut their highly paid workforces on the eve of the recession, only to quickly rehire when the economy rebounds.

Replacing this agreement with a holistic approach could minimize the risk of employers finding themselves understaffed and underqualified when the recovery begins, said uFlexReward CEO Ken Charman.


Employers in many industries face the prospect of a larger revolution in the world of work, triggered by technology and mass remote working.

“We’re still stuck in a very Victorian view of what work is – with fixed working days, for one employer and in a generally narrow role,” Charman said.

“But the change is coming that will allow people to be multiple things at the same time… if businesses lose highly skilled, experienced and loyal people, they won’t get them back,” he said.

Charman hopes the game could persuade employers to forgo or cut dividends and executive pay increases, and offer job sharing, reduced hours or part-time roles with the option to work elsewhere. to staff who might otherwise find themselves unemployed.

Pushing through alternatives to mass layoffs will require strong leadership and communication, especially when thousands of employee contracts need to be renegotiated, but staff retention could leave companies in a better position when the recovery begins, Charman said.

“Executives must be prepared to abandon old conventions; there will be resistance and they have to be able to convince people that it is in their best interest, ”he said.

“Employers, large corporations and large financial institutions are part of our critical national infrastructure just like the national network. They are the engines of our growth, but they are under threat.

Judging the face-to-face version of the game, featuring teams made up of executives from Unilever and NYSE-listed technology services provider Endava DAVA.N, will take place on December 3.

With Haldane, AstraZeneca AZN.L Rebekah Martin, senior vice president of rewards and inclusion, Constantina Tribou, head of global rewards at Unilever, and author David Goodhart are among those who are judging strategies.

Reporting by Sinead Cruise; Editing by Jan Harvey


Gordon K. Morehouse