Economic-recovery indicators are cautiously encouraging. As business picks up and revenue starts to improve, you’ll be tempted to replace the staff you were forced to let go during lean times.
But first and foremost, you have to take care of your current staff members — the ones who stuck with you and worked longer hours for less pay and fewer perks during recent years.
If times have been tough at your company, even your most loyal employee may have a wandering eye.
Most recruiters in Colorado will tell you that their phones are ringing off the hooks with candidates who are eager to find new opportunities.
The callers aren’t necessarily unemployed. Many are superstars who feel that their companies have lost focus, nerve and the ability to lead after they retrenched during the downturn.
In addition, and more often the case, these workers are burned out. In many cases, they believe they’ve stayed focused, worked hard during bad times, done more with less, and frankly, don’t feel appreciated.
In other words, they might seek opportunities where they perceive the grass is greener.
For management and human resource professionals, we know this turnover — especially in key positions — can be extremely costly.
As a result, you should not believe that just because unemployment figures are high, your employees should be happy just to have a job. If this is your mindset, trouble lies ahead. In fact, for people with a college degree and more than five years of experience, the actual unemployment number is closer to 4 percent.
Therefore, you should be thinking it’s time to take care of the talent who has helped you weather the storm. Here are some ideas:
• Spend time thinking about your current team. How much are your employees working? Are you meeting weekly or monthly with your key employees and making sure they’re given opportunities to take time off? Are they working on initiatives that are critical to your firm’s and their success?
Have you shared with them your plans, vision and goals? Keep them engaged, and they’ll be less likely to bolt.
• Celebrate wins. It’s typical to fall into a pattern that feels like a grind from one day or project to the next.
But be sure to celebrate success as a team. Did you retain an important client by successfully solving a pending crisis? Did you acknowledge the lead or effort to bring in a new client?
Thank your people verbally, in writing and even with food — then do it again.
• Get out of the office. One organization asks employees to submit team volunteer opportunity nominations. After discussing the options, a vote is taken and the group commits to a day in the community.
There are many organizations that could use your team’s expertise and time.
Giving back to others refills our own sense of what’s important and can re-invigorate your team.
• Lighten the load. Sometimes, adding contract staff for particular projects or tasks can help staff to keep up with regular work. As firms have shrunk in the past few years, they’ve had to either let some work go or ask existing staff to do more.
While a staff often adapts to handle the increased workload, there can be a breaking point. If you can’t bring on a full-time position, an experienced contractor might relieve some of the pressure in the short term and give you an opportunity to evaluate this person for the future.
Finally, it simply may be time to hire new talent. New staff — with new ideas, skills and energy — can be a great tonic for the office and signal to everyone that you’ve survived the worst and better times are ahead.
But don’t simply hire back positions you’ve eliminated during the downturn. Instead, evaluate exactly what your needs are today.
Think through the ideal hire, what outcomes you expect, and types of skills and personalities that would elevate your team and company. As most of us know, what we needed two years ago to be successful isn’t what we need to succeed today.
Let me know if you have successful strategies for keeping your staff engaged and interested in remaining on your team as you begin to see a rebound.
This is so true, if you cut back staff and the remaining staff had to work even harder, remember who got you through it.