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More with Less

Optimize Blog - October 19, 2015 - 0 comments

Here in Canada, and Alberta in particular, the recessionary pressures are once more to the fore as the price of natural resource commodities continues to languish at a level that has caused substantial job losses and significant reductions in capital investment.
As we work with clients that have had to make these tough decisions and have laid off staff, there is an acceptance, and indeed requirement, for employees to do more for less – bonuses have evaporated and there are less people around to do the work. Call it productivity, workforce optimization or efficiency but the reality is that in a constrained capital environment cutting costs is a valid strategy even if the costs in question relate to people.
But doing more with the same or the same with less is only an effective strategy provided quality is managed appropriately. So what should the expectations of a workforce be? Should they simply be happy to still have a job and to keep their heads down until things recover?
From a leadership perspective, not managing people’s expectations or adding workload by stealth are not sustainable strategies. Organizations need to be honest about the economic and business drivers. People are much more willing to take on additional responsibility when they understand the reasons and the potential impact.
Stretching people to do more when done appropriately is a great driver for innovation. It can also be a catalyst for Value Engineering, Lean Process and other forms of business process re-engineering. Progressive leaders use all the tools at their disposal not just loading people up with more responsibilities for no additional reward (financial or otherwise).
Great leaders are those who have built up a reservoir of loyalty, and have credits in their credibility bank. When the time comes to say to their people, “We have to change direction,” or “we have to become more efficient”, people are willing to make an extraordinary effort.
Restructuring is an “engageable moment” when employees are open to thinking differently about the organization. Employees at companies that restructure are 50% more likely than workers at other companies to have low engagement. However, if they believe the changes are handled well, they are 4.5 times as likely to be highly engaged. To maintain engagement it is critical to keep focus on customer satisfaction, continue to invest in people and work processes and provide additional incentives for top performers.
Layoffs can undoubtedly affect an organization’s long-term ability to deliver and invariably there is a negative impact on the remaining employees. The restructuring organization needs to retain and motivate its best people to ensure that a smaller workforce continues to deliver high quality products and services to its customers.
Leadership teams that fail to engage their employees during downsizing risk losing their best people, as well as declining productivity and reduced customer service from those who remain. This directly impacts revenues and profitability.
On the other hand, leaders that handle the human capital loss well improve their chances of re-engaging their remaining employees, retaining their top performers, minimizing the short-term damage, and maximizing prospects for long-term growth as the economy recovers.

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