Don’t Slash and Burn Talent

In the wake of the global economic crisis, the tide has turned and companies are holding onto their cash, ahead of talent.  I find that ‘slash and burn’ is the order of the day – the employment brand is faltering, training budgets are cut to the bone, pay increases are in single digits, bonuses are out and team building events are gone. Staff is under pressure hopping from one crisis to the next, absorbing higher workloads and being squeezed for productivity. Some workplaces don’t even give staff a free cup of coffee for their efforts!

While these tactics may deliver short term gains, it is questionable whether the company will succeed in the longer term. Disengaged staff don’t see their future with a company that has treated them as a liability.  They already have one foot out of the door, waiting for a career opportunity. When the upturn arrives, the company will not be well positioned to attract and retain talent.

As the recession erodes the bottom line, the challenge over the next 1-2 years is for companies to engage talent and reward high performance without breaking the bank.

I suggest that you start with the HR and finance department. Greater collaboration is needed between the Finance/HR Director and their staff, so that the organisation manages employment spend and talent appropriately. While finance can run the numbers, HR should ensure that employment rands reward desired behaviours and performance.

If the business strategy has changed, management should be exploring unconventional reward strategies to minimise the downside during tough times, while creating a competitive advantage for the upturn. For example, by radically differentiating your reward proposition from competitors, the company can retain talent without spending more.

In conclusion, computer scientist, Alan Kay summed it up well:

“The best way to predict the future is to invent it. Really smart people with reasonable funding can do just about anything that doesn’t violate too many of Newton’s Laws!”

(Star Workplace, May 2009)

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