21/11/2012 - 07:08

Creative solutions to keep staff on board

21/11/2012 - 07:08

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Creative solutions to keep staff on board

THE sentiment ‘if China sneezes, Australia catches a cold’ is often expressed by markets pundits and in the boardrooms of companies Australia wide; and Perth in particular.

In recent months there has been a noticeable chill on St Georges Terrace. A number of senior managers in the private resources sector and in public service are behaving as if winter has set in, as they tighten their belts. They have let staff go and have started cutting expenses in training, contract positions and any other area they consider to be an unnecessary expense.

This is like thinking the remedy for a sick person is to starve the patient.

There is a lot of evidence from both the fields of psychology and business to suggest this is exactly the wrong thing to do.

Renowned positive-psychology professor Martin Seligman highlights a number of empirical studies that show positive mindset and disease to be inversely related. In other words, people who are positive and optimistic live longer and are significantly less likely to get ill.

Professor Seligman points out a large number of studies that show positive people are more likely to live longer, stay healthier, have better relationships and have great job satisfaction.

This same approach can apply to organisations. Numerous research studies have shown that those organisations that continue to invest in training and development of their people, and who don’t go through harsh crisis cost-cutting schemes, are more likely to be profitable and sustainable than those that do. In other words, those leaders of companies who are more positive and invest in their people during down times are more successful. Organisations are made up of the minds of its people, especially the outlook of the upper management team.

Managers who have been through downturns know that when the sun starts shining again, they will hire people. However, in a conversation with Integral, a woman recently made redundant said the next time she took a job she would be tougher in negotiations with her employer.

The days of company loyalty and extra commitment are over for many employees, based on how they were treated by management during down times. Ex-employees are quick to tarnish the reputation of their previous employers when they know the company put profits before staff.

This was the same lesson of the previous financial crisis but still many leaders of organisations press the panic-emergency-bailout button. Those who learned this lesson during the last GFC maintained a positive reputation with their employees and in the marketplace. The benefit of these behaviours may be difficult to measure but they add to the balance sheet over the long term.

In dire situations, management must take actions that maintain the sustainability of the company. Recently, a WA drilling business had to suspend up to half of its rigs in order to remain sustainable. In some situations, staff prefer to reduce hours, take up stored leave or leave without pay, or reduce their salary in order to help the company weather the storm.

Another creative and positive way to deal with a tightening market is to invite staff, suppliers and contractors to come together to explore the best possible ways to save money to keep the ship running smoothly.

In one resources organisation, Integral ran a ‘cost challenge’ exercise, where 12 groups of about 25 people came together to brainstorm and list possible ways to save money for the business.

We started each workshop with creative thinking and problem solving exercises. We then brainstormed ideas and ways to improve the business and reduce costs.

The ideas were voted on, prioritised and action plans were developed for the best 35 ideas that came out of the workshop.

More than $ 18 million were saved through this exercise without letting go of a single staff member.

Integral Development is an experienced leadership and management consultancy, providing a comprehensive range of best practice leadership and organisational development services.
Contact Integral on 9242 8122 | admin@integral.org.au www.integral.org.au


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