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DST Systems goes AWOL with layoffs as Kansas City fights ‘global war for talent’

DST Systems layoffs hit downtown Kansas City

DST Systems on Tuesday, June 26, 2018, laid off 6 percent of its global workforce, including reportedly hundreds in downtown Kansas City.
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DST Systems on Tuesday, June 26, 2018, laid off 6 percent of its global workforce, including reportedly hundreds in downtown Kansas City.

DST Systems pushed hundreds of employees into Kansas City’s job market last month with little help to find another job.

Others are stepping in with a mission: Stop all those skilled hands from leaving town.

“We’re in a global war for talent right now. Kansas City wants to keep its people and for us this is a way to do that,” said Jessica Palm, managing director of TeamKC.

News reports of DST’s layoffs led TeamKC to open its KC Career Network — 800 recruiters and 250 employers in the Kansas City area — to the displaced workers.

This is the first time the KC Career Network has accepted resumes from a group of laid-off workers, who can send them to teamKC@thinkKC.com. As of Friday, fewer than a dozen former DST employees' resumes appeared on a page created specifically for those laid off because of "a recent acquisition of DST Systems."

TeamKC had built the network over five years, working with employers that regularly attract new employees to the Kansas City area. The network historically has helped the companies find jobs for their new hires’ spouses and partners.

“This is being opened now to displaced employees” at DST, said Shari Soper, director of talent acquisition at H&R Block and a member of TeamKC's advisory board.

DST employees also can check TeamKC's list of area employers with job openings they hope to fill with displaced DST employees.

Missouri economic development officials are on the same mission of keeping displaced workers in any industry from fleeing for jobs elsewhere.

“We have huge workforce gaps, and we need to find workers,” said Maggie Kost, communications director of the Missouri Department of Economic Development.

DST’s layoffs came June 26, roughly two months after its purchase by a Connecticut company, SS&C Technologies Holdings Inc. That company confirmed DST had laid off 6 percent of its 14,600 employees globally. It has kept secret the number let go among DST’s 4,000 Kansas City area workers.

An SS&C Technologies spokeswoman contacted for this article referred back to the company’s statement in June that confirmed the layoffs. In it, SS&C CEO Bill Stone said the company provided generous severance benefits.

Stone also noted that the layoffs came during a “period of historically low unemployment.”

A tight market means rivals in other cities will be targeting DST’s displaced employees all the more. It would have helped had DST given someone here a heads up.

It did not, even though Douglas A. King, DST’s senior director of global talent acquisition, is a member of the TeamKC advisory board.

Palm said King offered no notice of the looming layoffs and had only acknowledged with appreciation the email sent to the network members about the DST employees.

Missouri requires advance notice of plant closings and mass layoffs under the Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification Act, commonly called WARN. Notice is required 60 days before eliminating 500 jobs at an employment site, or if it's a smaller number of cuts but at least 33 percent of the jobs.

Employers are free and encouraged to contact the state about large layoffs that don’t trigger a WARN notice, which appears to be the case in DST’s job cuts.

Missouri’s Kost said a warning would provide time to organize an in-house job fair for employees that get laid off, and to get other area employers and recruiters to participate.

“If we can get that heads up, then we can get those things planned,” Kost said. “It really depends on the employer.”

Missouri officials finally were able to contact DST late last week about the layoffs, but Kost declined to say more.

State help with training, resume building, career skills and other assistance still is available to the DST employees through the Full Employment Council on the Missouri side of the state line and by the Workforce Partnership on the Kansas side.

DST's layoffs triggered a "rapid response" initiative, said Clyde McQueen, CEO of the Full Employment Council in Kansas City. McQueen said the employee's layoff notice opens the door for free retraining help. It might be as simple as getting a new or updated certification in job skills, such as for Microsoft Windows 10.

The information technology work that many of the displaced DST employees did is considered a key infrastructure skill, he said.

"We want those persons to stay in our region, particularly in the IT area, which goes across many sectors," McQueen said.

DST also laid off its workers without hiring an outplacement firm. It would have helped the displaced employees write resumes, practice for job interviews and look for work in related fields.

The outplacement firm also would have been a point of contact for other employers interested in those displaced DST employees’ job skills.

“DST is not using an outplacement service. There’s really not a way for these employees to connect with employers otherwise,” Palm said.

The puzzle for Kansas City is why DST hasn’t been active in the effort to relocate its former employees, particularly with other firms in the area.

DST Systems has worked to attract and keep skilled employees in Kansas City beyond its own workforce. It sponsors LiveKC, an effort “to make KC a more attractive place for millennials to live, work and play.”

Other employers with layoffs have worked informally with TeamKC. Palm said recruiters at Sprint and Teva Pharmaceuticals, each a large employer in Overland Park, have done that when they have cut jobs.

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