Few companies have come through the past 2-3 years unscathed by the recession. Leaders should consider the impact the recession has had on those who have survived in your organization. How are your employees doing at riding the wave of the economic crisis?
- Are they disheartened, barely hanging on?
- Are they committed to your organization and doing everything they can to maximize revenue?
- Are they coming to you with innovative solutions to bring new customers?
- Are they maintaining your reputation or just waiting for an opportunity to jump ship?
- Have you been so focused on surviving the recession to pay much attention to the needs of your employees?
Most companies cut training and development when times get hard. At the same time incentives and motivational processes take a hit, leading to a discouraging scenario for employees. If layoffs or deferred hiring also are used to cut expenses during a downturn, the surviving employees are asked to do more with less. The accumulative effect is a disengaged workforce that puts in minimal effort, feeling that the organization doesn’t do anything to earn their commitment.
Not all of this is fair, of course, since employers have to do something to ride out the storm. It’s important for business leaders to understand the value of learning during challenging economic times. The old adage, “You have to spend money to make money” comes into play here. According to a 2009 study by The American Society for Training and Development (ASTD) and i4cp (Organizational Learning in Tough Economic Times), 38% of companies plan to place more emphasis on learning during the economic crisis. The remaining 60% are either maintaining pre-recession levels or cutting back, some drastically.
The reality is that there’s never been a better time to focus on talent development within your organization. It is your employees that will pull your company through and help your regain traction as the economy begins to recover. Managers and business owners must become astute at managing performance, growing talent, and leveraging strengths to maximize human capital.
Because people are the cornerstone to any business – the foundation upon which the organization either stands strong or falters, the wisest thing for companies to do is become experts in managing human performance. A strong human capital strategy includes an assessment of desired verses actual performance, analysis of strengths & competencies and selection practices to ensure the right people are in the right job, and a commitment to developing people that doesn’t waver despite market and economic fluctuations.
The good news is that human performance management doesn’t have to be expensive! And the return on investment pays off quickly. The key is having a plan and sticking with it. Once processes are in place they can be maintained through feast or famine. Keep in mind the toll that the economic crisis has on your employees and consider budget-conscious solutions that will keep them engaged. Your employees want to succeed, but need to know they can trust management to support them.
As businesses make difficult decisions about how to pull through the current economic downturn, they must think beyond the knee-jerk reaction to slash costs to the bone. In ASTD’s Economic Survival Guide, the message is “Survival of the learning function in a down economy is all about leveraging existing best practices, eliminating redundancies, and creating programs or situations where employees can learn from each other.” You may want to invest in the services of an organization development consultant to initiate your human performance analysis, which will ensure you’re focusing on the most valuable efforts that lead to sustainable performance and position your company for success as the economy bounces back.