In the wake of the current economic instability, the idea of job security is becoming somewhat of a rarity. Now more than ever, it is time to shore up your value as a productive and contributing member of your organization and continue to enhance your own leadership skills. When a company needs to downsize, it is possible—even if you are a recent hire—that you will evade job termination if you are engaged in work that is valuable to the future of the enterprise.
Many organizations today, both big and small, are struggling to survive as the country faces a recession head-on. Massive cuts are being made to budgets and to workforce numbers. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, as of September 2009, the number of unemployed persons increased to 15.1 million and the national unemployment rate rose to 9.8 percent—this has doubled since December 2007.
As a result of these massive reductions in force, employees at all levels in many organizations face uncertainty and wonder if their company might be next to make cuts to keep afloat. Because job retention affects so many facets of one’s life—confidence, family relationships, personal goals and leadership style—the best way to increase your job security is to find new ways to provide value to your organization.
Here are some strategies to assist you in keeping your job secure and maintaining your leadership edge within the current economic climate.
Strategies for Maintaining Your Value to Your Organization
- Know your value. It is important to know the current value you bring to your organization and how you can further increase your contributions. Assessing your value can be done by eliciting the advice or feedback of others. Your perception in the organization by colleagues is a great indicator as to whether your self-perceived value translates into real value in others’ eyes. If not, it is time for you to ensure that your boss and other stakeholders in the company are aware of what you have done and are doing every day that makes an impact.
- Track your accomplishments. Another way to assess your value is by creating and maintaining a list of accomplishments to document successes and showcase your unique skill set. Quantify these accomplishments if possible (i.e. “grew business from 2,000 to 6,000 employees in less than three years with 41-percent increase in profit margin”). Be comfortable with the list so you are prepared and able to speak to it easily at any time. You never know when you will need to share this information with a superior or others.
- Offer services to key people. In order to provide additional contributions to your organization, check internally to see what the company needs. Are there any special projects or initiatives in which you can get involved? Offer your assistance in these areas or ask to take on other additional work. As an example, if your company is being acquired, offer to serve on the merger/integration team.
- Generate new ideas. At critical times like these, organizations usually try to determine how to work through the complexity of an economic situation. Be proactive and approach key decision-makers in this process and bring your best ideas to the table. Look at cost efficiencies and propose ideas for unique ways to increase sales or revenue. If you actively demonstrate your eagerness to see the company succeed, it will most likely be recognized.
Strategies for Leading During Challenging Economic Times
It is important to demonstrate strong leadership during uncertain times, and to continue to enhance your skills and develop as a leader despite the climate. How you manage others at critical junctures, like the current one, will set the precedent for the future.
- Keep lines of communication open. In difficult economic times, there is a tendency as a leader to withhold information from your employees or direct reports. Yet with a lack of information comes a lack of motivation. It is important to meet with all levels of your staff to share information and answer questions in order to keep the organization effective and to establish a positive workplace environment.
- Maintain your personal leadership style. Leading through uncertainty is stressful, as the livelihood or success of others may ride on your shoulders. Developing personal resiliency and incorporating stress reduction tools to handle different situations is imperative to demonstrating good leadership. Know that your behaviors matter more in periods of uncertainty. Your communications and actions influence the motivation of those you manage—from the decisions they make to their general morale—which affects the overall effectiveness of the organization.
- Keep developing your employees. Budgetary cuts often make it difficult to provide development opportunities to your staff. However, a continued investment in them demonstrates confidence in their abilities and is an effective retention tool. Developing your talent is good business and will further motivate them to be effective contributors to the organization. Look for cost-effective ways to build their skills, such as regular training sessions for a larger group rather than one-on-one solutions for a few.
- Encourage direct reports to be part of the solution. Just as it is important for you as a leader to generate ideas for the stakeholders and key decision-makers in your organization, it is also crucial as a leader to encourage direct reports to do the same with you. Soliciting suggestions from others gives them a sense of empowerment and importance to the success of the organization.
- Hire an executive coach. Having an executive coach at any time during your career is a powerful experience, as their role is to guide you through challenges in the workplace, share new techniques and strategies for improved leadership effectiveness, and offer counsel and feedback. These services are particularly useful during uncertain times to keep perspective when challenges are more acute and strong leadership is most needed. iBi
Monica Warner, MA, is the director of marketing and client relations at The Leader’s Edge, an executive coaching and leadership development firm.