Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Fortune Cookie Philosophy: 5 Ways to Engage & Retain Through a Down Economy

Today is the tomorrow we worried about yesterday – Some days it seems as if we have been struggling in an uncertain economy forever. And yet, we all remember the rich returns of just a few short years ago. What this tells us is that everything changes – what goes up will go down, and what is down will go up. Once you embrace the reality of change, every day is one day closer to a better tomorrow. Stop worrying about what might happen tomorrow, and start gathering the tools you will need to succeed tomorrow. Identify those employees with high performance potential, and start training them now to take on roles of more responsibility when the economy turns around.

Adjust finances, make budgets, to improve your standing – You say you can’t afford to train in a down economy? If you don’t, your high-potential employees may not be around to train when business improves. If people aren’t growing they are stagnating, and high-potential employees will seek more fertile ground to plant their roots. Take a look at your finances. Odds are, with a little creativity, you can find room in your budget for training and development. It doesn’t have to be training in the old costly model – big groups, catered lunches and paid speakers. Get creative. Use your technology. There are a lot of training programs that can be quite effectively delivered through less expensive media, such as webinars and teleseminars.

Your skill will accomplish what the force of many cannot – You can wish and hope and pray, but you cannot keep the down economy away. What you can do, however, is use this time to train and develop your workforce. Empower your employees for the future. Train them. Engage them. You will find yourself ready to leap into the economic upswing with a skilled, performance-driven, customer-focused workforce – trained and ready to take your organization to the forefront of the new economy.

He who climbs a ladder must begin at the first step – If you listen to the economic forecasters, you might wonder if the economy is on it’s way back up, or, if it still has a way to go before it hits bottom. So, what are you going to do? Do you wait to make sure the economy is rebounding, or, do you take a leap of faith and act as if it is? Regardless of whether we are in recovery now, or it is coming soon, every organization will have to reclaim some part of their market that was lost during the downturn. Start now. Be prepared. Look internally to your employees and recommit to them. Those who carried your organization through the downturn are looking for strong leadership to guide them forward and show them how to thrive in the new economy.

Be patient: in time, even an egg will walk – Start now. Identify your high potential performers. Find room in your budget to get them the training and development they need. Show them the future. Engage them. Ask them for their ideas to improve performance. When all around you are still trying to rebound into recovery, your organization will be leaping forward, trained and ready.

Train To Retain

In the current economy, as companies are downsizing to run more and more lean and management becomes more and more stressed, there is a tendency to believe a terrible misconception: you don’t have to worry about your employees because they are afraid of losing their jobs. While this may be true in the very short term, unhappy employees will eventually find a way to greener pastures. The question is: what are you doing now to ensure a vital, productive workforce when the economy rebounds?

In a struggling economy, non-profit-center departments are the first to feel layoffs and hiring freezes. In most organizations, this usually means Human Resources. Those managers who believe they will get top performance from their employees because they are afraid of losing their jobs, are the first to look to Human Resources departments for FTE cuts. And once they have cut the employee base to bare minimum, the next order of business is to curtail all unnecessary expenses – like development training. So now these employees are working longer and doing more, all in a stressful and fearful environment. They are afraid for the future of the jobs they have now, and are not being trained for promotion when things get better. Wouldn’t you start updating your resume?

The winners in this topsy-turvy economy we are now experiencing will be those organizations who recognize that in order to be able to leap forward competitively when the market turns upward, they have to be training and preparing their current employees now. There are cost efficient ways of delivering training, such as webinars and teleseminars, that are just as effective but don’t break the bank. And employees who are being trained and motivated are far more likely to be engaged in their current roles, and committed to a clearly defined career path.

What type of training and development are you doing now to prepare and retain your employees for an improving economy?