Don’t Make Tough Times Tougher
You should have read the headlines over the weekend – “U.S. Employers cut 80,000 Jobs in March.” Considering the economy with the cost of gasoline and diesel fuel at an all time high along with the increasing cost of food, the credit crunch and the general feeling of doom and gloom among most consumers, the loss of jobs was inevitable. It is difficult to foresee how long this economic downturn will last; but the supposed experts say it will continue for anywhere between another six months to two years. Since business leaders traditionally have a positive outlook on things, realistic planning for the future becomes even more difficult.
Truth and Accuracy Enhance Credibility. A reasonable projection of revenues, expenses and profits should be researched, agreed upon and communicated to employees. During lean times, employees should be looked upon as an organization’s biggest stakeholders of the organization. Leaders should call upon them to come up with cost cutting ideas that do not involve cutting people. Cost cutting should be the mantra of the times. Tell employees they are needed and they will deliver.
I Heard it Through the Grapevine. People talk a lot and in the words of Marvin Gaye – “not longer will you be mine.” When employees do not have information to draw from, they make up their own versions of what is going on. The grapevine is usually full of rumors and innuendos that can destroy any good morale the employees may have. Grapevines thrive in the organizations that are starved for information. In bad times, no news is NOT good news. People know things are slowing down. The workload is not as big as it once was and employees have more time to speculate. The only way to control it is to head it off at the pass and communicate.
Watch Behavior. When the going gets tough, people get tougher – on each other. If the leader is suddenly hearing more gripes and complaints about co-workers not doing what they are supposed to be doing, the leader must take a look behind these words. In difficult times, many people revert to protectionism as in guarding their turf to ensure that their job is protected at the expense of a co-worker. Times are tough and if the employee gets laid off, it will be difficult to find other employment.
Short-Time Compensation Program. Ten states in the country have what they call a “Short Time Compensation” program that allows employees to collect a portion of their unemployment benefits for shorter work weeks. In Florida, employers must apply for it through the Florida Agency for Workforce Innovation. Employers can cut hours by between 10% and 40% and allow employees to collect a corresponding portion of their unemployment benefits. This will have an adverse affect on unemployment compensation taxes in the future, but is less expensive in the long run.
Take a Hard Look at the Workforce. Slow times mean an opportunity to look at the people. Who is committed and who fit into the complacent or complaining categories. If there is not enough work to keep everyone busy, who are the employees who have the desire and the wherewithal to move the organization in the right direction? If layoffs make sense to your organization, be careful how it is implemented as to not put the organization at risk for discrimination charges. Soften the blow of a layoff by offering affected employees outplacement and/or severance benefits.
True leadership qualities come through when the going gets difficult.
Are you up to the task?
Have a good month and we hope to see you at the “Thriving in an Economic
Downturn” seminar on April 24th at the Hampton Inn Baymeadows.