As we head into the roaring ’20s two trends are emerging in leadership and business; one trend says that people are assets that can be added or subtracted from the company balance sheet depending on the needs of the shareholders or executive team. The other trend sees people as valued partners in the business and key components to its success.
If you are in the first category stop reading, I am not interested in talking with you. The practices that you use are what contribute to so much of the cyclical nature of our market. It devalues people and in a world with a shrinking labor supply is a “short game” mentality. You will lose your best talent, constantly struggle to keep afloat and in the end, the word will get out and no one will want to work in your organization. Harsh words I know but true.
If you are in the second category you are also facing these challenging times. How do you keep your team intact, weather the storm and come out stronger on the other side? You recognize that people are what are going to make your company successful and you are taking the “long game” approach. By fostering loyalty and engagement on your team you have attracted top talent to your company. The word is out that your company is a quality place to work and you never lack for people knocking at your door looking to join your team – even in a “thin” labor market. You are the kind of leader I want to talk with. There are options for dealing with the current market and there is a way to do this. Let me give you a short example.
In the 1980s a family-run mid-west manufacturing company found themselves facing a severe market downturn. They were confronted with the harsh reality of making major cuts to stay solvent and ride out the storm. They wrestled with the option of cutting staff, many of whom had worked with the company for their entire working lives. They went back and forth looking for any kind of solution and finally, loyalty to their team prevailed.
Rather than embark on a series of lay-offs and downsizing, they went to their employees. They brought in the key mid and front-line leadership explained the issue and where they were and how they wanted to keep staff. They worked with their staff and after several weeks of discussion and research the staff came back with a solution; they would all take voluntary (temporary) pay cuts and longer extended vacations (without pay) as long as everyone (executive included) would participate.
It was a risk, but it was the solution they went with. What was most interesting about this approach was because the leadership bore the burden with the team, the team stepped up in amazing ways! Those who could afford more unpaid time off traded with those who say had young families and could not. They also identified ways to produce operational cost savings. Lastly and most interesting it opened the lines of communication up and down the organization and several astute observations from line staff produced new revenue streams for the company. This not only got them through the storm but enabled them to be in a much stronger position afterward.
None of those things would have happened if they had taken the first approach. Let me state this again, if you are one of those leaders looking to take the second approach please reach out to me, I would love to talk with you!