Monday, March 31, 2008

Your Human Workforce... during turbulent times.

Hello everyone,

I came across a great article today from the Vistage website. Vistage is the worldwide leader in helping chief executives take their careers—and their companies—to a higher level.

With the current strains on the economy, the stock market and financial institutions... companies are looking to make changes, cut programs, slash budgets and down-size.

Here is some food for thought of what to do and not to do with your Human Assets.



Tough Times: What to Do (and Not Do) with Human Assets
By Vistage Speaker Richard Hadden and Bill Catlette

Day by day, the writing on the wall becomes clearer: The U.S. economy continues to shift toward possible recession, and international markets are seeing the effects as well. How will businesses survive? Maximizing competitive advantage is a must, and the first step is to reexamine your human assets:

1. First and foremost, remember that the best way to weather turbulent times is with the willing engagement of a focused, fired-up, capably led workforce. Avoid the moronic tactics so often invoked during a slowdown, guaranteed to make workers power back a notch or two. Things like knee-jerk layoffs (unless survival is truly at stake), poorly conceived pay cuts (especially incentive pay), and petty cutbacks. When you are forced to make painful cuts, remember – officers bleed first.

2. Don’t let fear cause your workforce to disengage. Asking people to be judicious about expenses is one thing - injecting an added dose of fear into the workplace is another. The degree to which employees are concerned about losing their jobs varies inversely with the degree to which they are concerned with doing their jobs, and taking care of customers. And they’ll be looking at the owners and CEO for telltale signs of fear…and of hope.

3. Don’t try to work your way out of a short-term earnings problem by “dumbing down” the organization. One of the first shoes to fall in a questionable economy usually lands squarely on top of the organization’s training budget. If you’re doing training that doesn’t need to be done, then you should stop it anyway. But the notion that we can somehow help the business by deferring necessary training is intellectually bankrupt. Think about that the next time you fly or have surgery.

4. Don’t (repeat, don’t) stop recruiting. If anything, redouble your recruiting efforts, and encourage your hiring managers to do the same. In case you didn’t notice, Warren Buffett, one of the savviest investors of all time, closed deals to buy two businesses the week before Christmas. He’s on a buying spree, adding solid businesses to his Berkshire Hathaway portfolio. The same principle applies to rounding up talented people. They’re out there. Go find them, and start a conversation with them now.

5. Don’t be afraid to talk candidly with your people about how the business is doing. Don’t delegate this. This is the CEO’s discussion to have. The one thing that distracts people more than anything else is not knowing what’s going on. As psychologist Karl Jung observed, “When facts are few, opinions loom large.” Every minute your folks spend wondering or worrying is a minute your customers are being ignored.

6. Crank up your “high touch.” Going through a difficult economic period isn’t just about business. It’s personal, too. This is an excellent time to show that you care by spending a bit more quality time with the people on your team, listening to them, and making sure they have what they need. Especially those on the frontlines. Don’t pry, but sharpen your awareness of special circumstances. Has a spouse been downsized? A mortgage foreclosed on? Watch for signs of added stress. Don’t play psychologist, but make sure your Employee Assistance Program is ready to respond and help where needed.

7. Pay extra attention to the customers you’ve got. Translate the meaning of that for all your employees. Too many businesses hunker down and go below the radar when economic growth slows. This is an ideal time to show customers that you care about them. If you do, chances are you’ll exit the current rough patch with better customer relations, and maybe more customers.

8. Smile. That’s right, smile. And do it often. The fact that things are getting a little shaky and people are scared (including maybe you) doesn’t overturn the principle that people prefer to be around those who are positive and optimistic. Your smile will lighten up folks around you little; they’ll get more done, and feel better about it, too.