Is it Really Important to Keep Employees on Board?
Today is a time for robust dialogue and though provoking questions about to cut or not to cut people.
Earlier this week I wrote an article on how managers are measured using ROI ratios. The summary of this point is it is easier (notice the word is not effective) to manipulate the ratios by controlling costs usually known as people and investment than real organic revenue growth. Therefore, many managers and key decision makers use the slice and dice method of cost control.
The above points being said, what reality sets in on the organization after you have cut a large percentage of people from the payroll?
A better question should be based upon a qualitative issue. How much knowledge, expertise and unique skill sets just “left the building?” I find that no one actually thinks or talks about this issue when the shears are applied to an org chart. Yet, it should be the number one discussion point of managers prior to any reduction in talent levels.
Yes, we are really talking about Talent Levels when we discuss the people issue. The interesting point about the people issue is they are the one true asset that can appreciate no matter what is happening to the general market conditions outside the organization. That is correct, people can grow and become more valuable to your organization each year.
Okay, I heard that – there are some people who have not improved at all over the past five or ten years of being on the payroll. Yes, I am aware of this issue. Yet, the reality of this productivity issue is probably due to your corporate culture. In other words, your culture has allowed people to remain on board without any performance improvement guidelines or even suggestions being placed upon the employees in question.
Management is responsible for the design of the corporate culture – high performance cultures are created and designed by leaders who want outstanding performance. Without being challenged to improve, people will just doing “what they feel is expected of them.” And, managers and leaders can influence perceptions regarding expectations of individuals, peers and management.
Now, one thing I need to discuss with you is – do you know what is missing after an across the board payroll cut. Reality shows in across the board cuts, no one is thinking about the knowledge, talents or uniqueness (uniqueness can be special skills no one else possesses, information or knowledge about processes or machinery etc, or most importantly the relationships present with customers or cross functional teams.) How much specialized knowledge and expertise has left the organization due to cuts.
With the cuts come few if any developmental activities to upgrade talent levels within the organization. Thus, a double blow to productivity and effectiveness.
Okay, so what is a better method to use to improve the employee productivity? Here are some ideas to use…
- Begin to map the talents and traits possessed by each individual in every department in the organization. If this means to train your managers on how to evaluate people – then so be it.
- Use assessments to track real and potential high performers for your organization. Unique talent is harder to find – so do you have a retention strategy for these identified high potentials?
- Top Grade during downturns and pick up high performers cut lose by your competition. One word of caution here. Check potential new hires out completely – make no assumptions that this individual will be great in your organization because they were good or great at a competitor. The truth is they could be a mismatch to how your company does things and will become a distraction and morale buster. I have seen this happen very often in every type of organization – including sports teams (see Allen Iverson and Memphis Grizzles bust)
- Take action on the people who miss their performance objectives each year. There must be a system of negative consequences for the low performers within your organization or it will have a negative impact upon your corporate culture.
- Have regular discussions with the human resources personnel assigned to your group. Identify the unique talents and special knowledge held by individuals. Then, set out to cross train others within the group or place this into the top grading agenda above. I have seen issues whereby only one person knew how to operate a critical piece of machinery at a manufacturing plant and while this had be known for THREE years – no effort was applied to cross training someone. Seems this person got into a fight in the lunch room and the company rules were very strict on this behavior – calling for immediate dismissal from the company. Now the company had a dilemma – fire or not fire – and be judged either way. Interesting times we can have when ignoring the obvious.
- Have everyone share “success stories” in getting things done – especially with cross functional relationships which get things done faster during a crisis. Identify these relationships and who has them and who does not.
- Use this opportunity to identify your problem staff members. Classify the nature of the problems – bad attitude, inflexible behavior, poor interpersonal skills, hot head, lack of focus or passion and few to limited skill sets with no effort to improve their skills.
There you have a few issues to think about and have dialogues with others within your organization. A key thought to remember is – it is your people who get everything done. Are their ready and totally prepared to meet the coming challenges the future will bring to us? And, due to a lack of the any previous thought about the talent levels after a major numbers reduction – have you really identified the missing parts for your team to function effectively when the market completely turns up?
Now is the time for you to take action and review your current talent levels and think about where they should be in future. Create a action plan to get your people to the next level of performance and you will be the winner.