Ann Taylor claims there aren’t any overweight – sorry, big boned - fashion conscious women anymore who can afford the company’s size 16 couture so they’ve made a decision to stop carrying the clothes in their store... (sure, women who pay $200 plus for a blouse will happily order it online without first trying it on for fit). Analysts on the other hand see an obvious strategy – cost cutting – because it is more expensive to make larger clothes.

I call it ROI suicide; I suppose the perfect size 2 former cheerleader but now head of marketing probably didn’t realize that “nearly 70% of women are size 12 and up.”

Seems as if everyone is saying the same thing in a different way: The fat; uh, overweight; uh, big-boned; hmmm, curvy; well, plus sized ladies are simply a drain on the balance sheet and must be eradicated. And while we’re at it, let’s find a way to eliminate the overweight peeps at work – they drain the balance sheet as well with all the benefits they use and of course, they require sturdier, more expensive chairs at work.

Now that they’re no longer clothing the world’s well-healed but the size of football fields women, I suspect the next strategic decision coming down from Ann Taylor management will be…No more hiring of large people.

They can’t even buy nice clothes at Ann Taylor stores to wear at interviews so why put forth the effort to recruit them? And if any recruiters are plus sized, pink slip them too; I'm sure their chairs are also warped from the weight.

With all the talk about thought leadership, I’d like to nominate the brain trust at Ann Taylor for thought idiocy. Here is a great example of how the wires between marketing, finance, and HR can became inexorably crossed and cause a nasty short circuit. I certainly don’t believe AT is purposefully targeting overweight, big-boned, curvy, plus sized people but every reasonable-at-face-value business decision has impact on the human element; I do believe someone neglected to inject this forcefully enough into the discussion. And just like those companies who are neglecting all things recruiting during the down times, it is policies such as this that will make the eventual upturn that much more of a slippery slope for Ann Taylor.

While it makes eminent sense to implement initiatives to control costs, these must be balanced with the impact on the short and longer term employment brand as well as goodwill. It also highlights the importance of bringing a recruiting strategy to company leadership where the head of recruiting leads the discussion of blending the recruiting and business strategies. Reactive recruiting rarely produces results that serve as the basis for a model program that others follow. This is real brick and mortar leadership and not the “thought leadership” stuff that others see when they read you online.

Real recruiting leadership requires more than the ability to flash a few tweets or write a Boolean. Thought leadership is great but it doesn’t enable a substantive discussion with the CFO.

There are miles to go before we sleep.

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