The Employers' Association staff has been conducting "issues" surveys with members since the beginning of the year. The survey asks stakeholders to rank 12 issues they deem to be most imminent for their organization in the next six to 12 months. They're also asked to identify barriers to overcoming the issues. While health care costs have come in first on the list, the second most frequently reported issue is "doing more with less."
Does the following scenario sound like your organization? A member of your department tenders her resignation, and you're told you can't fill that position until further notice. How do you do more work with fewer people? More importantly, how do you make sure you don't suffer additional turnover when your overworked employees feel overwhelmed by the workload?
Organizations have experienced two very extreme employment markets in the past decade. The earlier market was characterized by increased demands for productivity to feed an insatiable growing economy, and the current market is characterized by employment scarcity and tremendous pressure on the bottom line. Subsequently, people have been working at a harried pace-not only since the 2000 recession, but well before that, albeit for different reasons.
Both extremes have one thing in common: People are worn out and somewhat unnerved by the rapid pace of change and its accompanying uncertainty. So here's how to make the best with what you've got.
Don't Ignore Your Top Performers
Top performers who feel they're currently treading water career-wise may start looking to make up for lost time once the economy and job market rebound. One way to head off this threat lies in implementing a game plan now to develop your "keepers" so they don't jump ship once another opportunity comes along. Meet your key players' needs by developing these individuals to even greater levels of achievement. As long as outstanding performers believe they're on the fast track, are given an opportunity to prove their abilities, and sense appreciation for their contributions, they're more likely to stay put.
Practice Random Acts of Kindness
By celebrating your successes, learning from your group mistakes, and trying to have some fun, you'll develop a relationship with your staff. And every relationship benefits from a spontaneous surprise now and then. How about a 12:30 staff get-together at the local bowling alley? What about holding your next staff meeting in the park across the street? Maybe you could have a short contest awarding the winner with next Friday off, while runners-up get to leave at 3 p.m. These acts of kindness don't have to be grandiose, but occasionally engaging in acts of benevolent spontaneity on company time lifts morale and gives people a well-deserved break from their work. That's a refreshing change people will appreciate.
Encourage a Relationship-Rich Culture
Set the tone in the organization for valuing relationships-not just with external customers, but internally as well. Do employees know the mission, vision, and values of the organization? Do they see them practiced at all levels of the organization? If not, this is a great place to start communicating at all levels of the organization. Why does your organization exist? What does the future look like? What are the guiding principles of the organization? Don't be afraid to ask for employee input on issues; some of the most innovative ideas stem from employee suggestions.
What Does the Future Hold?
Faster, better, and cheaper will continue to be the battle cry for organizations. While the economy continues to turn around, we'll see more hiring-first through employment agencies, then direct hires. As this happens, employers need to evaluate the hiring, selection, and retention processes in this highly productive, fast-paced future we're faced with. Why? Because the third issue from our survey is recruitment and retention of a qualified workforce. IBI