What’s in the Crystal Ball for Human Resources?

In today’s economy, when budgets are still being cut in some industries, we are looking for any way we can to stop the bleeding and consolidate our organizations. Even after business has picked up steam again most executive management is even hesitant to take the risk of adding to their workforce just yet. In fact, they kind of like keeping their belt tight as profits rise at the expense of our overworked employees. While that is a balance between keeping the employees happy and keeping profit margins maximized, it is also taxing our human resource departments.

Ride out the storm
If we are just as smart as our executive management (I like to think we are smarter) we know that with the European economy teetering on the brink of a disaster there may be very good reason not to hire back workers too quickly. Hold onto your hats folks because the ride is not over yet. If Europe’s economy stumbles, there will be more repercussions that affect those of us who have been hiring employees back. In fact, if you have been trying to convince upper management that we’re killing our engagement factor you may want to swallow your pride and keep quiet for a few more months (or longer). Let’s wait a bit longer to see what happens before we make any persuasive speeches to the bigwigs about employee engagement.

Keep employee engagement at its peak
I’m not saying we shouldn’t be doing all the things we do so well in our efforts to engage employees as much as always. Let’s just not fight for any internal support until we are certain what is going to happen externally, unless it’s support of our supervisors to keep our employees engaged.
Keeping employees for the long haul
It is a real balancing act. In slow economic times we need to keep an eye on the near future. When our sagging economy begins to recover, so too will the job market. As you can probably imagine, that could have a devastating affect on employers who are not prepared.
We can’t forget how losing employees affects our workflow and our bottom line. While replacing employees becomes expensive, in hiring and training replacements, it also interrupts the workflow and sometimes brings productivity to a halt and can kill morale. That is why it is so important for all managers and supervisors to be aware of what needs to be done in order to reduce the upcoming potential loss of your best employees.

Keep open communications from executives to front line employees
We need to find the time to work with each employee individually in a number of crucial areas identified by a recent survey. It is essential, for example, that each employee has a good idea of what their future can look like with our organization if they give it their best effort. Most employees who plan to leave, and even some that will probably stay, might not think they have long term potential with your organization. Somehow, we need to get our best employees to believe that a future exists for them with our organization.
We also need to make sure everyone is being treated and evaluated fairly regarding their performance.

We need to make sure we are communicating with them but more importantly listening to their perceived needs, and if valid, making an effort to meet them. Even if we can’t meet their needs if we understand what they are and agree with them we should be willing to go to bat for them with upper management. A great deal of respect can be generated by doing so. On the other hand if we don’t agree with their needs we need to be able to persuasively explain specifically why we feel that way.
With clear, open and honest communication when dealing with employees’ ideas and opinions they will feel much more satisfied that you took the time to listen and that you took the time to explain how it affects the overall organization and why it might not be the best alternative. Whenever possible, we should be offering an alternative that is at least compromising and workable while on the other hand if they have a good idea we need to be able to recognize their contribution openly and in front of others when possible. Simple recognition goes a long way, especially when it is in public.

Ask and Listen
When dealing with employees who may not be performing up to standards we need to be able to recognize if there may be an issue outside the workplace. We need to be asking open-ended questions and if we find work/life balance issues let them know we have compassion. If the opportunity arises or if there is obviously something affecting their work, that they are unwilling to share, we need to be prepared to refer them to our Employee Assistance Program (if eligible). It is important for us to let them know the details of this benefit and that it is completely confidential.
Listening to your employees’ ideas and making them feel like their opinions are important to you, or at least that you understand them, goes a long way in retaining employees. Retaining employees after the job market makes its expected recovery is the most important time for your organization to stay profitable and step to the forefront of competitors by retaining your best asset.

The numbers are in…”and the survey says”…
Research results of employees who plan to leave their current job when the economy begins to recover:
Only 1 in 4 employees who plan to leave their employer believe their employer offers long-term career opportunities for them.
37% of those who plan to leave have a reasonably good idea of their career paths at their employer.
Only 44% of those planning to leave believe their job performance is evaluated fairly.
Only 20% who are planning to leave are satisfied with how they are recognized.
Less than one-third of those ready to jump ship say management does a good job of communicating with people.
Only one out of three workers who expect to leave feel management generally understands the problems they face in their jobs, and that the company culture supports their need to balance work and life.
Just 40% of those planning to depart feel sufficient effort is made to obtain the opinions and thinking of employees.
Those who plan on staying:
More than 3 out of 4 employees (78%) who plan to remain with their employer believe their employer offers long-term career opportunities for them. Three quarters of those who plan to stay say they have a reasonably good idea of their career paths at their employer.
8 in 10 workers who plan to remain with their employer believe their job performance is evaluated fairly. Additionally, three times as many workers who are staying with their employer (60%) are satisfied with how they are recognized.
About 2/3rds of workers (63%) who plan to remain with their employer say management does a good job of communicating with people.
More than 2/3rds (69%) of those staying put feel management generally understands the problems they face in their jobs, and that the company culture supports their need to balance work and life.
3 in 4 workers (75%) who plan to remain with their employer feel sufficient effort is made to obtain the opinions and thinking of employees.

The research by Towers Watson, an HR consulting firm, was based on responses gathered in 2010 from more than 900,000 in 89 organizations worldwide. Don Johnson works in human resources for the Washoe Tribe of Nevada and California. He is a trainer and public speaker with experience in human resources, sales, marketing, advertising, business development, management, safety and media. He has worked in a diverse variety of industries including news media, cable television, financial and now works in Tribal Government, and freely shares his knowledge. Don can be reached at: mgmtjohnson@gmail.com.

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