Developing a Recession-proof Workforce

There's so much talk — yes, what once was whispered is now full-blown talk — of a looming recession.

Indeed, many Americans think we are already in recession. We're caught up in a credit crunch. Home foreclosures are mounting, construction rates falling. Stocks are dropping. The jobless rate has risen. Expenses have escalated.

Any way you slice it there are a lot of economic problems to worry about these days. Especially for those of us in business. We're feeling pressured to do more with less. And as the economy shrinks, we’re struggling to get the highest level of performance we possibly can from our employees.

Many employers, I hear, are letting their workforces dwindle.

Perhaps that's a good thing. Sometimes it means you eliminate employees who just aren’t that productive.

On the other hand, losing your best at a time when you need employees to perform at extraordinary levels puts additional pressure on your organization.

What do you do when your best people walk out the door? Do you…

a) Rejoice as people move on, relieved that they have freed you of their wages and benefits? Or do you…

b) Continue your recruiting and hiring programs, and develop and reward the best – even now during this economic downturn?

If you answered "b" go to the head of the class. Most likely you, yourself, rank among the best your firm recruited, retained and developed. You know the value of employing the best. And, you know you need them at the helm continuously, and especially during economically turbulent times.

Most important, you realize that even though times are bad, your most valued employees could leave. Why? Because even in a down economy, the most talented employees come and go as usual. They can always get jobs, in large part, because your competitors continuously troll for them.

And that's a problem for many businesses. In a survey of 850 executives, two-thirds said their organization's inability to attract and keep the best people is the second biggest threat to their business. (The biggest threat is competition.)

Successful businesses manage talent pools Mega successful businesses that many call "recession proof" manage their talent pools vigilantly. They know the only way to compete is with the best people. Here are a few steps they take to manage and keep the best. Why not try them yourself?

* Build a recruiting strategy that operates all the time – not only when people leave.

If you shop for talented people only when you see turnover, you will foster a system where jobs either stay open too long or you hire in haste. (And repent later!)

* Be a matchmaker.

Ensure a person-to-job match from the very start; do not hire someone who "sort of" works and hope for the best. Smart business leaders use assessments to guide them. They do not rely on their instincts, or hire people because they are charming or like themselves.

* Know your employees.

Discover your employees' dreams and help them realize those dreams by developing their skills. Knowing what employees want begins at recruitment and continues throughout their careers.

* Cross-train.

Teach your workers many skills. You can then place them strategically. Challenging your best people in this way lets them and your organization grow.

* Find creative ways to reward excellence.

Even though your bonus pool is limited, you can give awards. Make them more meaningful by giving them to those people with outstanding performance. Spreading out bonuses equally among all employees, even those who did not perform well, diminishes the meaning. Also, look beyond financial rewards. Find out what your employees value and figure out ways to see that they get it. Some ideas: extra time off, challenging training for new jobs, flexible hours.

* Get out of the way.

Keep your door open but do not micromanage. Let your excellent workers perform their magic…you might learn something new as well.

Letting your best workers depart makes no spreadsheet sense. This is true whether economic waters are smooth or choppy.

And right now, things are particularly choppy. Look at the latest labor statistics. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 8.5 million persons were unemployed in June with an unemployment rate of 5.5 percent. A year earlier, 7 million persons were unemployed and the jobless rate was 4.6 percent.

We all know that dealing with an up-and-down economy is part of doing business in a changing world.

But the point is this, even though you cannot control a downturn, you can make your workforce recession proof.

And bottom line: An ever-changing workforce is expensive. Losing an employee costs somewhere between one and five times his or her annual compensation.


Monthly Tips: Ten Ways to Keep Talent Through Tough Times

Here is a checklist you can use to help keep your talent despite rough waters.

1. Mine for talent all the time, not just when talent leaves or changes jobs.

2. Use technology (the Internet) to broaden your search for talent, pick the right people for your teams, and provide your employees with online training programs.

3. Show you value talent by treating employees fairly.

4. Provide mentors. Veteran employees can help young talent learn the culture.

5. Give top performers opportunities to develop. Providing additional training and responsibility helps you see what they can do.

6. Reward your top performers to retain them. Rewards should be consistent with the value they provide.

7. Keep your door open. Maintain relationships even when people move on. You may meet them again.

8. Cross-train top performers so that you can move them around where needed.

9. Find ways to help your top performers understand themselves. This will help them manage change better.

10. Develop your own standards for top performance. Don't copy someone else's unless mediocrity is OK.


Your Solution Toolbox: Profile XT™ Helps You Select and Develop Employees

It’s common sense that employees who fit their jobs well will exhibit a higher level of job satisfaction than those who do not. They come to work more often, change jobs less frequently and perform superbly overall. They achieve success with what comes naturally to them.

How can you ensure that your employees work where they belong in your organization? That's a great question and one I can answer with few words: Profile International's assessment tools particularly the Profile XT™.

Quite likely you are familiar with the analogy I use when I talk about the ProfileXT™. This analogy asks you to think of attempting to put a square peg in a round hole. To make a square shape fit in a round slot you must shave the corners. If the peg is more curved then square, you will need to shave off less to make it fit. And, if the peg is already round, it fits perfectly in the hole with no shaving or honing needed.

When hiring, or advancing or changing an employee's responsibilities, you'll find that the ProfileXT™ helps ensure this kind of fit.

Managers using assessment tools correctly already know the shape of the holes they need to fill. They only need a peg to fit it well. ProfileXT™ helps them find the right peg. It measures job-related qualities that make people productive such as thinking and reasoning style, behavioral traits, and occupational interests.

If you are interested in learning more about the ProfileXT ™, give me a call or send me an e-mail. I’d love to help you see just how powerful this tool is, and how you can benefit from it.

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