Intouch: Tactics for not losing talent

Managers have put so much emphasis on cost cutting and delivering bottom-line efficiencies that they’ve taken their eye off the ball and forgotten how to manage their greatest asset – their people.
That’s the warning from David Jones – Sydney-based managing director for Robert Half Asia-Pacific. He believes many managers have gone into panic mode and are cutting staff benefits or pay without properly communicating the company’s true position or strategy. The risk is that they start alienating the skilled folk they can ill afford to lose, says Jones.
“Many firms have already had to let less critical staff go and they’re now close to the bone in terms of total staff numbers. They can’t really afford to lose key personnel who are business critical.”
There’s already evidence of restlessness in the recruiting firm’s surveys. One taken earlier this year found 42 percent of New Zealand respondents reporting higher stress levels in their finance and accounting teams while 41 percent were experiencing higher workloads, 16 percent lower organisational morale. Another found an increasing number of people were either actively job hunting – or at least thinking about it.
“If staff are constantly under pressure to work longer hours, then they will become increasingly stressed. This will lead to falling morale, illness and potentially key staff members – who are still very much in demand and can find new jobs relatively easily – will leave.”
Half the problem comes from management who, forced to let staff go, suggest that even their own jobs are not secure. That, says Jones, might score on the empathy front but doesn’t do whole lot for overall staff morale. Better and more frequent communications about how the company is gearing itself to ride out the recession would provide greater comfort.
“It’s well-known fact that people don’t leave their company, they leave their line manager. So managers need to smarten up, appreciate the loyalty of the staff and be open and honest with employees – because the better they can communicate now, the better placed the company will be when the market recovers.”
It is, he adds, mistake to think that employees will sit tight in recession – top people are always in demand and the available pool of them remains small, even though there are now more candidates in the market. As recruiter, his company needs to dig out those top candidates who may not yet be actively seeking work; but it doesn’t do it by advertising on job boards or dispatching candidate resumes.
“It’s much better to be relationship focused rather than just sending off resumes, which tends to piss off both clients and candidates. There are instances in Auckland now where some recruiting firms are asking candidates to pay portion of the fee because they are discounting to the client – that’s bizarre practice.”

Common management mistakes made in times of uncertainty:
Feeling people are lucky just to have job » True but talented people always have options.
Assuming employees are mind readers » Unless you communicate openly and often your team won’t know the realities of the business.
Ignoring rumours » If staff don’t hear the news from you – they’ll hear some version of it from someone else.
Lack of recognition » There’s no such thing as too much positive reinforcement.
Saving praise for last » Encouragement along the way is good, too.
Not supporting employees » If you’re there for your team members, they’ll be there for you.
Not giving star treatment » Don’t spend all your time improving average talent but ignoring the real stars.
Cutting training » Bad long-term tactic.
Equating busy with productive » Reward results, not hours.
Making work mission impossible » Don’t overload staff.
Waiting for better times » Now is always the best time to implement good idea.
Sacrificing quality » Letting standards slip is short-term game.
Making the wrong cuts » Beware of slashing customer services.
Shifting focus from front lines » Customer service counts all the more when times are tough.
Tying employee hands » Try empowerment, provide guidance and tell people what they did well and what could be done better.

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