Are your employees drowning?

The old adage states that you can pick two of the following but not all three: speed, cost, or quality.  In the past two years companies have found they need to do things cheaper and reduce costs.  So that leaves them to ask the inescapable question of: which of the other two do you want?  If you cut your employees salary to do business more cheaply do you want your business done at a high rate or at a high quality?

This fundamental shift is playing itself out in organizations all over the country which have reduced wages, reduced staffing, or kept resources consistent as workloads have increased.  I have heard it from executives, from employees, from other colleagues that the people who are still in the workforce have hit their ceilings.  Ad a recent VP I spoke with said, “they are drowning.”  Despite that, demands for performance are still pouring water on them.

Many in leadership positions don’t know what to do so they try to dismiss employees stress by telling them to “be thankful they still have a job.”  While this may be true now, what happens to your top talent – who pulled your company through one of the toughest economies in decades – when they have an option again?  My bet is they are just waiting to jump ship.  Recruiting talent these days costs a reported additional 50%-300% of a position’s salary.  Do the math on the long-term cost of burning out your best people.  Not cheap, eh?

I am not saying the external realities are not to be considered and that quality and production are not still important.  They absolutely are.  My suggestion would be to look at your policies of how people work and see if you can provide some relief.  What was the environment when they were created?  What was the intent?  And most importantly, is it still relevant in this new environment?  Relaxing dress code, altering time-based policies, reducing duplications, all typically cost nothing and can provide some much needed relief.

A recent global study indicated that the top driver of employee engagement is whether or not “senior management is sincerely interested in employee well-being”. (Towers Perrin, 2008, Workforce Study, Global Report)  What are you doing to show your employees you still care about their health and well-being?  If you are just telling them to bail faster or giving them a bigger bucket, they will probably find a new boat when it comes along.  Instead, see where you can fix some of the leaks.


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