With the global financial crisis biting hard, management executives are beginning to realise that while their share prices and balance sheets are showing them where they are falling behind, it is the skill and commitment of their people that will take them where they want to go in the future.
Australia has enjoyed unparalleled prosperity over the last decade. Unemployment reached its lowest levels and the national standard of living reached its highest levels. Older workers focused on improving their superannuation via the soaring stock market; while younger workers asked what their employers could do for them, rather than how they could contribute to the organisation.
In good times of low unemployment, organisations are so keen to attract and retain employees that their people management becomes process-driven and less strategic. Many organisations today have wage rates and conditions of employment that were created with the sole purpose of satisfying employee demands - but these are not sustainable in the current situation.
Do you have an EVP?Organisations with a good people management strategy have a brand or EVP (Employee Value Proposition) that attracts and retains good employees irrespective of the employment market or economic times. Employees want to work for employers who have a clear vision and a corporate strategy that will prevail regardless of changes or challenges to the labour market. Employees understand that poor leadership or bad management practices are a threat to the survival of the organisation, and they will leave as soon as they have other employment options.
Steps to take
Unfortunately, the poor performers stay as they do not have the same ability to walk into other jobs. As a result, the organisation slips further behind in its productivity and competitiveness. Consider the following steps to improve your organisation's health.
- Invest in your people by sending them on training programs, running management workshops and spending considerable time developing long-term strategies.
- Balance the needs of old and new workers. Older workers have been caught short by the economic downturn - their superannuation and retirement planning is particularly affected. New workers, however, are at risk of becoming disillusioned and disaffected with a work environment that has shifted focus. Gone are they days when the needs of individual workers were paramount.
- Make organisational survival your new focus, and make quality people management a priority.
A common theme here is strengthening the organisation. This may seem incongruous when most organisations are focused on how they will survive the next quarter or financial year and have shelved their improvement programs. In broader organisational lifecycle terms (and even in product lifecycle terms, in some cases) the current economic downturn will be a short, albeit painful, experience.
Recovering markets will provide a range of unique opportunities.Organisations need to be ready for these opportunities as they arise. Gaining a 'first mover' advantage in some of these areas will be critical for maximising benefit. As strategic level organisational change can take several years to implement, now is the time for organisations with a competitive agenda to start making the changes necessary to take advantage of recovering markets.
About the authors
John Taya is Unit Chair for Contemporary People Management and Stuart Orr is a member of the Chifley Academic Committee for Chifley postgraduate programs. For more information on Chifley Business School contact 1300 244 353 or visit www.chifley.edu.au