Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Just wait until you need them back

I had the opportunity to congratulate a colleague last week on being recruited to become the president of the North American subsidiary of a major international conglomerate. In doing so, it occurred to us that a paradigm shift is taking place under the talent of large legacy companies and the cost-cutting effort is not allowing them to see it.

While “managers” have dutifully been reducing the work force to achieve cost and profit objectives, actual leaders are also thinking about post recovery business environment. The memory of this workforce is more robust than many give credit. True leaders have been approaching the down cycle by engaging their teams in the tough decisions, and this has created different employment decisions than in the past. It is not as simple as one generation letting the younger generation go.

The most talented stars in the workforce today know their value and are not threatened by the idea of moving to other opportunities. The toughest task is for the leader in a legacy company to step up and act as though they understand that the economy will recover and the karma demonstrated today will be paid back.

Have you seen a leader that understands this new workforce paradigm? Do you believe the karma will be paid back?


Klint C. Kendrick, MBA SPHR said...

What a great observation! The book "Good to Great" talks quite a bit about using downturns as an opportunity to ACQUIRE talent, rather than release it. Skilled employees are looking for an opportunity to improve their skills, and the shortsighted attempts to save money today will result in dollars lost later, as we train the replacements to those we laid off!

There are, of course, nuances. Sometimes layoffs are a good excuse to eject dead weight. However, companies that are well run will have ensured that the selection process is engineered to hire only top performers, and in case performance changes over time, the talent and performance management systems should kick in to help good employees find their optimal location, or help the not so good employees find the door.

The bottom line is that most companies don't get it. They wield a hatchet when a scalpel will do the trick (to borrow shamelessly from our election debates). They watch the morale of every employee, including the top performers, go down the drain, and they don't know how to fix it.

I think you have a great fix. Engage, engage, engage!

R J Hall said...

The problem I've seen with some companies that have been so decimated by this latest economic downturn is that they have practically NO money left. They are owned by the banks and the banks aren't worried about the karma you reference.

The adage, "you've got to spend money to make money" rings pretty hollow when there's NO money.

Kirsten Parks said...

I agree management is now looking at the 'big picture' when making hard decisions in the down turn cycles. They ask employees for opportunities to help with costs, and I have witnessed some good decisions based on ability/capability as opposed to other factors that come into play when making resourse reduction decisions.

Karma is key, in any situation. Good people would be willing to return to a good job if it is dealt with appropriately.

Anonymous said...


You've verbalized something that I've been feeling but hadn't yet put into a nice, neat box.

I'm seeing my clients faced with engaging their teams in tough decisions. The ones who do it are either rewarded or recruited. The ones who don't end up in the next cut.

Thanks for this one...

Add to Technorati Favorites