Facing a tougher economic climate, many employers are looking to cut costs without resorting to layoffs.

In a recent survey of 265 employers by the Institute of Corporate Productivity, a Seattle, Wash.-based research firm, 87 percent said they were focusing cost-cutting measures on improved efficiency. Other approaches included seeking lower costs from suppliers, streamlining operations or outsourcing tasks, respondents said. Only a third said they anticipated layoffs.

"In this uncertain economic environment, it's clear companies are intent on not being caught flat-footed," Kevin Oakes, the firm's CEO, said in a statement. "But so far it's looking more like careful surgery than a bloodbath."

Oakes said economic downturns in the past have prompted companies to improve productivity and seek new strategies to boost revenue.