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Don’t Sacrifice Talent To Survive a Crisis

Nobody needs to tell you that we’re in hard times. A pandemic is sweeping the nation, a trail of personal and economic devastation behind it, and frightening uncertainty ahead. Businesses are struggling to figure out the best path to survival. For many leaders, the impulse is, understandably, to lessen their organizations’ financial load with layoffs.

The good news is that eventually, through the efforts of courageous health care workers and our technology, we will defeat the virus, and life and work will return to a version of normal. And many economists predict that when this happens, our mothballed world economy will snap back to life, unleashing a wave of pent-up demand.

Will your company survive and be ready for this?

After all, consider what happened post 9/11. After the attacks, the world economy reeled, oil prices surged, and the stock markets plunged as the world braced for war in the Middle East. Many companies, fearful about the future, indulged in a layoff binge, slashing their workforce without thought to who their top talent was, or what current and future skills the organization might need to remain viable and recover with the economy.

But then the economy quickly rebounded, and the downturn turned out to be what economists call a “V-shaped recession.” The sharp decline in GDP was followed by an almost equally sharp increase in business activity. At this point, companies found that the talent they let go was desperately needed. They scrambled, and the result was a massive hiring binge to fill the gap that they themselves created.

The fact is that fundamentally, there was nothing significantly wrong with the underlying economics on September 11th, 2001. The economic downturn was not caused by normal business cycle considerations, the firing binge was followed by a scramble to replenish a depleted workforce.

Today, the pandemic is cutting a swath through what otherwise had been a robust economy, so the mistakes of 9/11 are a cautionary tale.

If you are among the business leaders queuing up the pink slips in reaction to this unprecedented crisis, I urge you to stop, take a breath, and think your next steps through — lest you sacrifice valuable employees in your rush for short-term relief.

While I understand some companies are in crisis and don’t have the luxury of time to pause for analysis, most do have the wherewithal, and I would argue, a duty to their workforce and, if public, their shareholders to proceed with wisdom and caution.

So instead of rushing to throw off what might feel like human ballast, consult with your HR executives to put together a strategic workplace plan, or crisis plan, by performing a three-dimensional review of your current workforce, considering more than headcount and cost. Instead of responding in panic only to the here and now, look ahead, 6 to 18 months in the future, and decide:

  • What skills your people have today and what your organization will need
  • How to ensure you have an adequate supply of these skills and where to deploy them
  • Your succession plan for key leaders

Upon sober reflection of these needs, you probably will find that you can keep most of your workforce in place, and you will be ready to make clear decisions based on your data and forecasts. Additionally, doing a strategic workforce crisis plan will set you up for the future by seeing how you can maximize the productivity of the workforce you have. From this plan you will be in position to drive higher performance and workforce engagement, creating what I call “PEIP capability,” where PEIP = People Engagement, Innovation and Performance.

PEIP is a strategic capability that not only creates higher performance, it creates a more engaged workplace, which naturally leads to greater productivity. Who doesn’t want to work in an organization that wants to optimize employees and work with their skills and their career aspirations? A workplace that tries to align people to what they do best? An engaged workplace is a fun place to work, but it is also a competitive advantage. Some of the highest performing companies, such as Google, Microsoft, Accenture, IBM, and SAP, have implemented PEIP strategies to create competitive advantage, and this is reflected in their people engagement scores as well as share-price performance.

PEIP can also help future-proof your organization. New smart technologies and AI perme.ating the workplace create another opportunity for the workforce and the organization to align the right people with the right skills to harness new technology. This creates a “turbo-charging” effect, driving more engagement, innovation, and productivity, as well as return on investment on IT spend.   

We are at the fork in the road — once again. It’s a scary time, but rife with opportunity for companies that respond with foresight. We can do as we have done for decades before and continue the hire/fire binge, or we can step back and be more strategic and thoughtful in addressing the current crisis, while at the same time positioning our businesses to thrive in the future — whatever it brings.

Outplacement: Staying Ahead of the Curve

Written by Raymond Lee, Founder, Careerminds

Outplacement services
were once considered a perk reserved for executive layoffs. But in recent years, corporations have rapidly expanded the model to help transitioning employees at all levels.

There are several reasons:

1) As outplacement has gone virtual, it’s proven cost effective for employers and attractive for employees;
2) Leading service providers are setting the bar for employer branding;
3) The recession made layoffs a common experience for many members of the workforce.

Outplacement has always been considered a perk, but now, as the Wall Street Journal notes, it’s an expected perk. In fact, according to a recent survey we conducted, more than 70% of companies offer assistance to displaced employees.

The New Normal

Of course, we’ve all been affected in one way or another by the severe economic recession in recent years. Those tough times have forced leaders to conduct business differently. Companies that survived have learned how to run effectively with a leaner workforce. And now, across-the-board, we see a surge in companies that approach staffing based on on strategic alignment with industry needs.

Instead of reacting to the ebb and flow of internal operating cycles, companies are anticipating talent requirements across their industries, and mapping to those benchmarks. Now, even though the economy is making a strong comeback, it seems workforce alignment is here to stay. In fact, we expect it to play a key role in the ongoing business practice of managing layoffs.

Skipping The Layoff Scramble

However, even with smart planning and a focus on industry trends, companies typically find themselves scrambling for solutions and guidance when they experience shifts in demand. This is common, even when reductions in force (RIFs) are small. Having been in this industry for a long time, I’ve seen first-hand the panic that accompanies any kind of RIF.

As the scale of a layoff expands, so do the risks. Unfortunately, all too often, HR departments don’t establish a relationship with outplacement specialists until the panic has set in and the scrambling has begun. That kind of environment is ripe for poor management choices. It’s certainly no time to pick a provider.

Outplacement Risk — And Easy Insurance

The reality is, no one knows they need outplacement services until they need outplacement services. Conducting a RIF is inherently risky. It makes sense to work with a reliable, prepared outplacement partner. And although most companies realize that they need expert guidance to manage layoffs, most typically avoid engaging with outplacement until the need is urgent.

Rather than waiting to start your research during the pressure of “the scramble,” it’s wise to begin long before the need arises (if it ever does). You have nothing to lose by establishing a trusted relationship with a reputable firm. Think of it as an insurance policy — one that no company can afford to ignore. As the recent economic crisis demonstrated, market demand can be volatile, and in a downturn, the high cost of staffing can have a devastating impact on business performance. It’s important to be prepared, just in case.

Quickly choosing a firm at the top of Google search results, or picking a low-price bidder is a recipe for a mismatch. These might be great companies with viable services, but there’s more to choosing an outplacement provider than that. Does the firm have coaches who understand your industry’s talent requirements? Can it demonstrate a proven history of business relationships and placements in your sector? How easily can global or decentralized employees gain access to services?

Also consider the pricing and services structure. Some outplacement providers charge for each type of service delivered, while others base fees on the duration of an engagement. It’s important to research the average time-to-place for your industry, and consider this along with other decision criteria.

Why It Pays To Think Ahead

These are just a few of major factors in choosing the right outplacement company. But they illustrate my point. Waiting until you’re in the thick of layoffs is a sure bet that you’ll sign-on with an outplacement company that isn’t right for your business. Even a small investment in preparation can help you avoid costly missteps.

Whenever a RIF occurs, your company’s hard-earned employer brand is on the line. If you haven’t already considered potential outplacement scenarios and requirements, it will be too late to compensate. Start doing your homework now. Establish a relationship with a provider. Ask tough questions. Consider them one of your organization’s ongoing HR advisors. You’ll sleep better at night — and you may also gain insights that will help your department operate more effectively — even if you never lay off another employee.

RaymondLeePic(About the Author: Raymond Lee launched Careerminds in 2008 as a virtual outplacement company. He brings over 18 years human resource leadership, career consulting, and outplacement experience to Careerminds. The concept of virtual outplacement was developed by Raymond after experiencing years of traditional outplacement in a variety of HR roles. Over his career, he planned and executed several large-scale layoffs, and in his last role set up a costly in-house brick and mortar outplacement center for displaced employees to access.)

(Editor’s Note: To discuss World of Work topics like this with others in the TalentCulture community, join our online #TChat events every Wednesday, from 6:30-8pm ET. Everyone is welcome. Learn more...)

Image Credit: Pixabay

Consider Culture Before Leaving Your Job: #TChat

Originally posted by Matt Charneyone of #TChat’s moderators, on MonsterThinking Blog

A lot of companies, through recruiting advertising, corporate mission statements, employee communications or any other aphorism-friendly medium, proudly proclaim some variation on the theme, “Our people are our greatest assets.”

As the economy slowly rebounds, however, there’s a pretty good paper trail showing that, in fact, many of these assets were treated, essentially, like a cost center, at least when it comes to the old p&l.   Shedding the fixed costs of human capital might make sense on a balance sheet, and has, over the short term, created both shareholder value and historic levels of employee productivity.

For the overwhelming majority of workers, there’s nothing fixed about human capital.  And they’re about to prove it; with the expected mass exodus of talent  in the wake of the rebounding economy, many companies and talent organizations are about to discover, in fact, that “our people are our greatest assets” is more than a corporate catch-phrase.

Because a lot of those assets are about to walk out the door, taking with them, in many cases to competitors, a level of institutional and internal knowledge whose value on the balance sheet might be hard to calculate, but whose bottom  line effect will be felt by many organizations for years to come.

The upcoming seismic spike in employee turnover will look different than any we’ve seen in the past.   A recent Monster.com survey showed that fully 82% of fully employed workers have updated their resumes in the past 6 months, and a whopping 96% of employees with tenures of over 5 years are openly exploring opportunities.

Any recruiter can tell you, candidates with up-to-date resumes and job longevity are pretty much the Holy Grail of talent acquisition.  And the crusade for your organization’s employees is about to begin.

Join #TChat tonight as we discuss what employers and job seekers alike can do to take advantage of this historic confluence of trends that stand poised to redefine the status quo of workforce and talent management.

#TChat Questions and Recommended Reading (4.5.11)

Whether you’re a recruiter, job seeker, or employer, the ‘perfect storm’ of accelerated attrition and acquisition will change the way you work, and who you work with, and we want to hear from you tonight from  8-9 PM ET.

Here are the questions we’re going to be discussing tonight, along with some recommended reading to help inform, and  inspire, tonight’s #TChat conversation:

Should I Stay Or Should I Go?  Workplace Culture Factors to Consider Before Leaving Your Job

Q1: Almost 90% of workers report being “open” to looking for new jobs.  Why is this number so high?

Read: Another Workplace Survey Shows Workers Are Fed up And Ready to Bolt by John Hollon

Q2: How can employers take advantage of these trends to recruit and hire top talent?

Read: How To Capitalize on the Post-Recession Resume Turnover Tsunami by Jon Picoult

Q3: What factors should employees consider when looking for a new job opportunity?

Read: What To Know Before You Quit by Roberta Matuson

Q4: What can business leaders do to improve retention  rates and morale among top talent?

Read: Rules for Retention: The Big 6 Motivators by Dr. John L. Sullivan

Q5: What’s the difference between an active and a passive candidate, if any?  Does it matter?

Read: The Darwinian Evolution of the Recruiter by Mark McMillian

Q6: What are the most significant factors employees look at when deciding to stay or leave?

Read: The Grass is Not Always Greener by Dr. Caela Farren

Q7: What are some ways employers and companies can help turn the tide?  Or is it too late?

Read: Top 2011 Employee Engagement Trends by Kevin Sheridan

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Visit www.talentculture.com for more great information on #TChat and resources on culture fatigue and how to overcome it!

Our Monster social media team supports the effort behind #TChat and its mission of sharing “ideas to help your business and your career accelerate – the right people, the right ideas, at the right time.”

We’ll be joining the conversation live every Tuesday night as co-hosts with Kevin Grossman and Meghan M. Biro from 8-9 PM E.T. via @monster_works and @MonsterWW.  Hope to see you tonight at 8 PM ET for #TChat!

Being a Good Boss Means Not Being Afraid to Fire; #TChat Recap

Everybody likes to be liked. Most colleagues and bosses that I’ve worked with do. To a fault, which makes it very difficult when dealing with those who need dealing with.

Those who need to be written up and eventually fired.

For those who don’t care about being liked, in particular the bosses, most still don’t deal with confrontation very well and hence don’t fire. Well. Or at all. This of course is all anecdotal, but I bet most of you agree, and we’ve all seen the surveys and the research that validates.

The overall consensus last night during #TChat was that this “fear of firing” affects business performance detrimentally, because not only do poor performers topple the bottom line by falling flat on it, they also affect their co-workers and others in the business, which then creates a domino effect of further poor performance. And if they’re customer facing in any way, then there’s another affront to growth and revenue.

We didn’t really define “poor performance,” but that can include the inability to complete assigned tasks to being a toxic employee. Because which is more important when considering termination: cultural fit or performance? I say performance and lack thereof. I’ve hired great cultural fits who don’t perform (or can’t in that position).

There was a contingent last night who thought if the cultural fit was there, performance issues can be resolved. Maybe. Maybe not. Too many variables and if you cram a lazy square peg into a virtual round hole and then ask them to handle customer services calls from home…

Ultimately it’s the immediate supervisor’s responsibility to initiate the termination process, and why they must document performance and have 1-on-1’s beyond the annual review. I wrote a post last month titled Did you get that last part? Don’t be afraid to fire. Period. where I recommended the following:

  • Create formal and informal employee learning networks for mentoring and career development.
  • Empower, develop and train the average employees so as to develop a more productive workforce.
  • Allow employees in training to dial up and down their roles and responsibilities.
  • Recruit and hire those with high potential — FT, PT, contractor, etc.
  • Reward the high potentials and high producers.
  • Don’t be afraid to fire those who can’t be empowered, developed or trained.

By no means am I an expert in this area, but based on my experience recruiting, training and developing employees, these are activities that worked for me and my companies. Being a good boss means not being afraid to fire. Period.

Don’t forget to include human resources in the termination process, even the CEO and other leaders when applicable. Unfortunately this is because we live in such a litigious society and HR still need to help enforce compliance and proper procedure.

We had the pleasure of having Kevin Wheeler stop by #TChat last night. He’s a globally-known speaker, author, columnist, and consultant in human capital acquisition and development, and we were thrilled to have him join in our stream. When we got on the subject of hiring better performance fit to prevent eventual firing, better interviewing came up quite a bit. But Kevin reminded us that according to recruitment research, interviewing wasn’t much better than chance in predicting success in a position. Even those who are good at behavioral interviewing, which isn’t many, it’s still not much better than chance. References, however, can help evaluate cultural fit, and I agree with Kevin there. At least beyond the obligatory three five-minute reference check calls.

Thank you again Kevin!

You can see our TweetReach here and these were last night’s questions:
  • Q1: What impact does “fear of firing” have on leaders?  Biz performance?
  • Q2: What red flags should managers look for when recruiting now to avoid firing later?
  • Q3: Who should have ultimate responsibility for firing decisions?  HR, CEO, Supervisor?
  • Q4: Which is more important when considering termination: culture fit or performance?
  • Q5: What can job seekers do to explain being fired when looking for their next role?
  • Q6: Some say being fired can be the best thing that ever happens to someone.  T/F?

Thank you again everyone for joining us last night!  Next week’s topic will be “ “Should I Stay or Should I Go: Workplace Culture Factors to Consider Before Leaving Your Job”