Friday, November 21, 2008

Talent Preservation

The party seems to be over in the context of global economic boom. Recession has set in, and for companies there is no escape from the tweak.

A natural reaction in such tough times has been cost-cutting, and the human resources department figures first on the chopping list. Corporates have frozen their recruitment budgets almost instantly and are seeking ways to cut on numbers. While employees are at the receiving end, for organisations there is little else to do to help the situation—if they don’t retrench, others on board too will perish!

Though it is difficult for many companies to maintain the existing staff, leveraging the talent onboard and using it to maximise corporate efficiency can be one of the best bail out plans against recessionary blues. The situation is very complex from a recruiter’s perspective too. The need to have a better talent is at its peak, while the resources have run out. In addition, the target group of passive job seekers too is not willing to shift jobs when everything seems so uncertain. All these factors have turned the recruitment scene dismal, and the focus is only on retention.

Loyalty at a premium When the chips are down the chance to bounce back lies in the perspective of the decision-maker. Recession is as natural to the economy as boom time, and it is the perspective of corporate leaders that matters most in such testing times. While cutting costs is important, diluting internal talent resources and barricading flow of creativity can stifle organisational growth. The way a company treats its employees amidst gloom and doom impacts the loyalty quotient. Employers who harness internal talent in times of economic downturn can hope to see an army of loyal employees standing by them, while those who axe talent and get fidgety with employees fail to earn loyalty. It would not be wrong to assume that employers who show greater loyalty towards their employees during critical times would be better poised to claim a greater market share in fair weather.

Recruitment enthusiasts may argue that even in an economic downswing, it would be worthwhile to keep the talent pipeline active. However, corporate strategists say focussing on existing talent is more important. People with foresight and ability to plan ahead agree that preserving the best talent in critical times will save the agony of employee turnover in future.

More tactical, less strategic When it is tough time strategies dictate the course and tactics help ride over it. It is the tactical abilities of leaders that help weather the storm. Hence, leaders and managers have to think ahead in time and leverage the resources available to them. Apart from working towards maintaining optimism at the workplace, leaders have to be concerned over what the employees are thinking about the organisation’s take on the crisis.

Fear is the most dominant feeling in such times, and onus of alleviating fear and pessimism lies with the leaders. Corporate leaders should ensure that employees feel secure and reassured of their jobs. Respecting people’s feelings and giving them their due in critical times is what sets employers apart. Many companies boast of their “zero layoff” record, as they believe it is their approach in tough times that has seen them rank high on the list of most preferred employers.

The example of US steel major Nucor Steel shows how companies that believe in guarding employee interests go the extra mile to save them the agony of a layoff. Nucor Steel has cut on executive perks, and reduced the number of working days instead of laying off staff. Making choices that are more ethical than profitable have proven to be rewarding.

The onus of providing the organisation with the best talent crop lies with human resources professionals. When the going gets tough and vacancies shrink, the responsibility to make a difference and keep the existing talent motivated and inspired also lies with them. HR leaders who understand this go out and prove HR’s worth as a tactical asset.

*Reference: TheManageMentor

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