In a two-part series on The Tougher Workplace, Los Angeles Times reporter Alana Semuels takes a look at how the recession has negatively impacted working conditions for both hourly and salaried employees.
One of the main themes of her story is that businesses are asking employees to work harder without providing the kinds of rewards—financial and psychological—that were once routine. As Semuels explains, “Employers figure that if some people quit, there are plenty of others looking for jobs.”
Paul Osterman, co-director of the MIT Sloan Institute for Work and Employment Research, who was quoted in the story, agrees. He says, “Wages are stagnant, jobs are less secure, work is more intense — it’s a much tougher world.”
For example, Semuels quotes Matt Taibi of Providence, Rhode Island, who routinely works twelve-hour days as a driver for UPS. “There’s more and more push toward doing more with less workers,” says Taibi. “There are more stops, more packages, more pickups. What’s happening is that we’re stretched to our limits and beyond.”
All workers are being impacted
Semuels reports that salaried workers are also experiencing the harsher work environment. While an over-forty-hour work week has routinely been a part of salaried positions, workers often enjoyed a measure of autonomy in their schedules.
That’s increasingly rare, says David Tayar, who spent a decade on salary as an associate attorney at a Manhattan law firm. He says that the demands of his job grew so much in that time, he eventually felt that he could never take a break.
When he started, Tayar says, “I checked my voice mail every few hours. Today, lawyers must check their BlackBerrys every few minutes — and be prepared to cancel a dinner, a weekend trip, or a vacation at a moment’s notice.” Tayar says he took just one day of vacation in a five-year stretch.
“You could never totally relax — you could be called at any time, unless you were officially on vacation,” Tayar says. “And even if you were, there were times when you would be called in to work.”
In defense of the common tactic of reducing headcount, cutting costs, and driving higher levels of productivity, Tim Meyer, an executive with private equity firm Gores Group of Los Angeles, explains, “Sometimes you have to make dramatic changes to save the jobs that you can.”
But it’s come at a cost, says HR Specialist Donna Prewoznik . “The relationship between employers and employees has changed,” she says. “Employees haven’t had raises. They’re tired. Their hours are reduced. They feel a little bit betrayed.”
What’s your experience doing more with less in today’s work environment? Share your comments below—or check out the hundreds that have been posted online in response to Semuels’ article. You can read more by checking out The Tougher Workplace series here.
Organizations around the world have been forced to change the way they do business. The worldwide recession, downsized workforces, and value-conscious customers have created a new set of expectations. A just-released white paper from The Ken Blanchard Companies identifies key strategies for leaders. Here are four of my favorites to get you started on positioning your company for success.
- Change the organizational mindset. In many companies people have been hunkered down and focused on the short term for almost two years. The emphasis has been on cutting costs, holding down expenses, and weathering the storm. Now that the worst is over, how do you let people know that it’s okay to lift your head, look around a little bit, and cautiously make new plans for the future? One thing that leaders can do is share a vision for the road ahead, indicate that growth is a goal again, and let people know that they can try new things that have some risk involved. You want people to start thinking about stepping out again, but they have to feel safe in order to make that leap.
- Give people behavioral examples. What does “try new things that have some risk involved” really mean? The best organizations define the values, attitudes, and practices they desire in clear behavioral terms. People have gotten pretty clear about what they shouldn’t be doing over the past 18 months; make sure they are just as clear about what they should be doing now. The more specific and granular the examples are the better.
- Stay open to change. Constant adaptation is a key for thriving in the new business reality. Pay attention to customers’ expectations and competitors’ innovations. Especially after an extended time of downsizing it’s important for organizations to embrace new ways of thinking to breathe new life into old practices and generate innovative new ideas.
- Involve everyone. Smart leaders look for good ideas everywhere. This means checking in with people who are informal leaders in the organization as well as the people who are in formal positions. By listening to everyone—including people with divergent points of view, you increase the odds that the organization will be more responsive, adaptive, and successful in the face of change.
By sharing power and expanding influence, leaders can create an organization with a strong overall capacity to change and succeed. The new business reality demands that organizations find new ways to address old problems. To learn more ways to increase your organization’s ability to succeed, be sure to check out the complete white paper, Thriving in the New Business Reality from the Blanchard website.
An in-progress, online survey by Sean Silverthorne of Harvard Business School’s Working Knowledge newsletter shows that 82% of respondents indicate that “Yes, the crisis is sapping my enthusiasm.” (Econ Crisis Making Middle Managers Miserable)
Silverthorne also reports that 27% of middle managers find their current roles less meaningful and exciting than before the economic crisis, according to a recent McKinsey poll. The main reasons according to Silverthorne?
- Job Insecurity. Middle managers don’t have the job security they need to perform at a high level.
- Kill the Messenger. When there are layoffs to be done, middle managers more than any other supervisor class are the ones who deliver the message to those being let go.
- Career Interrupted. Middle managers now have fewer opportunities at work to be promoted.
- Pay Squeeze. At home, middle managers are under mounting financial pressure as their employers scale back on pay raises.
These situations can take an emotional toll on your managers. Job security, maintaining a connection with people, and growth opportunities are important needs that all employees have. (To see other needs, check out Eight Employee Needs You Must Address to Create Passion at Work).
How are your managers holding up? This might be a good time to check in with them.
Join Dr. Dick Ruhe, Senior Consulting Partner and co-author of Know-Can-Do right here on LeaderChat beginning at 10:05 a.m. Pacific Time for a 30-minute Q&A session.
Dick will be stopping by immediately after he finishes his WebEx sponsored webinar on We’re Still Here … Now What? In this special event, Dick will be sharing six strategies to help leaders re-focus and re-energize their organizations by adopting a growth—instead of survival—mindset. Over 400 people will be participating in the webinar and most will be gathering here to ask follow-up questions.
If you have a question that you would like to ask Dr. Ruhe, just click on the COMMENTS hyperlink above. (Once you’ve typed in your comment hit SUBMIT COMMENT.) Dick will answer as many questions as possible during the 30-minute online Q&A.
If you can’t stay for the entire 30-minute chat, but would like to see all of the questions and responses, you can always stop by later or click on the RSS FEED button on the right-hand column and you’ll receive updates automatically.
McKinsey & Company just published the results of a series of interviews with 14 CEOs and chairmen of major companies (including 3M, Cardinal Health, Travelers Insurance, Pepsi Bottling Group, Procter & Gamble, Macy’s, Sysco, and Northrop Grumman) asking them to reflect on the current recession and previous challenges they had faced in a turnaround or a crisis. What emerged from the interviews are six principles that all leaders can reflect on to guide their behavior in the executive suite and the boardroom, as well as interactions with employees, customers, and investors.
- Confront reality
- At board meetings, put strategy center stage
- Be transparent with employees
- Be transparent with investors
- Build and protect the culture
- Keep faith with the future
You can access the complete McKinsey article here. (It’s free, but registration is required.) While you’re there be sure to check out the McKinsey archives and also sign up to begin receiving the free McKinsey Quarterly, a great business strategy resource.
For more information on leading in the new business reality, also be sure to check out Blanchard’s recent articles on Making the Shift from Survival to Growth and Creating a Change-Ready Organization. Both are available at no charge at the Blanchard website.
It’s been 12 months since the American investment banking system collapsed, starting a domino-like financial crisis that eventually spread around the world. The good news is that the worst appears to be over. The bad news is that the hard work of rebuilding your business still lies ahead. This shift from immediate survival to planning for next steps is creating a new set of challenges for leaders according to Dr. Dick Ruhe, Senior Consulting Partner with The Ken Blanchard Companies and co-author of the business book Know Can Do!
“People have spent the last twelve months thinking about, “what if?” What if they lop off my part of our organization? Or what if they cut out my product line? Or worse case, what if the entire organization goes under?”
Leaders have to deal with that by making the shift from survival to growth. Now instead of stopping the red ink by reducing expenses, organizations have to shift to getting back in the black by setting new directions.
That’s the focus of an August 11 webinar where Dr. Ruhe is the featured speaker. It’s complimentary and it’s just been posted on The Ken Blanchard Companies web site. To learn more, check out We’re Still Here… Now What?
Recently, the media has been reporting on more upbeat economic news. The general feeling is that we are starting to see some improvement in the business environment.
What does the economy look like from your perspective? Are things improving, getting worse, or staying about the same? Take a minute and share your thoughts in our new poll below.
What’s the best way for leaders to impact their organizations after a layoff, merger, or acquisition? If you had to choose between focusing on your people, financials, or customers, where would you begin? We asked that question to 700 frontline, mid-level, and senior executives who attended our webinar on Revitalizing the Downsized Organization this past Tuesday.
Their response? Focus on your people first.
52% said addressing employee motivation needs should be the first order of business, followed by customer needs (14%), and then financials (12%).
How does this stack up with your priorities during these trying economic times? It’s important to have a strong strategic focus on financials when money is tight, but make sure that you are also paying attention to employee needs. After all, you need their best ideas and their best work now, more than ever.
Great organizations know that focusing on people—both customers and employees—is just as important as measuring the success of the bottom line.
Are you taking care of the people who take care of your customers?
The debate between what’s better for company’s experiencing a downturn in sales, layoffs or pay cuts, continues to draw differing opinions. In today’s US edition of The Wall Street Journal, columnist Cari Tuna reports that while 65% of companies resort to lay offs when faced with economic short falls, a growing percentage are choosing mandatory furloughs and pay cuts as an alternative.
What are the deciding factors in determining which path to follow? It all depends on how you see the future unfolding.
If you “don’t see a light at the end of the tunnel, it just makes sense to lay off less productive workers,” says Satish Deshpande, a management professor at Western Michigan University’s Haworth College of Business.
Other workplace experts believe that pay cuts and mandatory furloughs are the better choice if you believe a sales decline will be temporary.
Which route would you choose? It probably depends on your outlook for the future.
If you’ve already had to make some changes in compensation or structure because of the economy, be sure to check out our free webinar tomorrow on Revitalizing the Downsized Organization. Senior Consulting Partner Chris Edmonds will be sharing some hands-on management strategies for keeping everyone focused, productive, and optimistic as we ride out this downturn.
For more on this debate, check out our earlier post on January 30, Layoffs or Pay Cuts: How would you decide?
There are a couple of different measures that always matter. Productivity is one of them. You have to hold people accountable to deliver upon the goals and tasks that they are asked to accomplish. The other piece that is not as heavily managed is people’s discretionary energy.
That’s part of what I found out after finishing an interview with Chris Edmonds, a senior consulting partner here at The Ken Blanchard Companies. My interview with Chris will be featured in next week’s issue of Ignite!, our monthly e-newsletter and Chris will also be our featured presenter for an April 14 webinar on Revitalizing the Downsized Organization. Both of these resources are free and you can find out more by clicking on the links above. If you haven’t had a chance to hear Chris speak, here are a few of the ideas that Chris will be sharing:
Most leaders are more comfortable managing metrics like productivity but may not be as comfortable having the type of wide-open conversations about issues that you have to have if you are going to build the passion and commitment you need to move forward in trying times. And because leaders don’t take the time to stop and get everyone involved, you can end up making a stupid short term decision that may look really good right now, but a month from now, or six months from now, continues to have really negative impact on your business.
You want your people to be passionate and engaged in the work that they are doing. And you are only going to get the discretionary energy of your people is when they are feeling trusted and respected as a valued partner and stakeholder in the way that the business operates.
It’s the secret behind organizations like Southwest Airlines where even when times are tough they don’t have folks leaving, demonstrating, or picketing. Instead, they’ve got folks constantly meeting together about how they can help the organization get through this economy. It is a great example of how overall employee commitment and demonstrated discretionary energy is driven by clear communication of what is happening, open involvement in trying to influence the decisions that are being made, and what can happen when people are consistently cared for as a vital asset.