Employers neglect staff in downturn

Australian companies are failing to properly manage their staff, with employers pushing staff priorities to the bottom of the list due to the economic downturn, according to international recruitment firm, Robert Half.

“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,” said David Jones, Managing Director, Robert Half Asia-Pacific.

“While overall there has been a decrease in the number of candidates leaving existing jobs due to low confidence in the economy, we’ve noticed an increase in the number of strong candidates who come to us reporting manager issues as the main driver behind their departure.

“Their managers are panicking; they’re so worried about their own job security that they’re cutting staff pay and benefits without good reason and in some cases, without any justification as to why.”

This new trend puts at risk high levels of job loyalty that industries like accounting and finance have typically enjoyed. A recent employment survey conducted by Robert Half, showed that job loyalty is high in the accounting and finance industries, with 23 percent of staff expecting to stay in the same role with their current employer over the next five years; but many employers are taking this for granted.

“Unless employers put their people priorities back on the business radar, companies are at risk of losing their best talent. It is a 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 their staff and take employees on an open and honest journey in the downturn because the better they can communicate now, the better placed the company will be when the market recovers.

“In times of economic downturn, it is essential that companies take a long-term view as business success is largely dependent on the ability of staff. Australia has faced a serious talent shortage in key areas such as finance and accounting for more than a decade and employers must keep this in mind,” said Jones.

To help managers retain top performers and keep their organisations running smoothly in times of change, Robert Half has identified the most common management mistakes that are made in times of uncertainty:

  • Feeling people are lucky just to have a job
    True, many people feel fortunate to have a stable position in this economy, but your most talented employees always have options. Good people are marketable in any economy, and you want your best people to stay with you for the long-term.
  • Assuming employees are mind readers
    You’ve spent your week implementing cost cutting measures – and now your Accounts Assistant has requested a salary increase. Bad timing, but unless you communicate openly and often, your team will not know the business realities of the company.
  • Ignoring rumours
    The rumour mill exists in every organisation especially when there are shut doors, cancelled meetings and people speaking in hushed tones. If your staff don’t hear the news from you, they will hear it from someone else, and it may not be entirely accurate.
  • Lack of showing recognition
    Many senior managers would be the first to admit they could offer a bit more positive reinforcement to their teams. There is no such thing as too much praise, as long as it’s specific, genuine and timely.
  • Saving praise for last
    It’s nice to thank people for a job well done, but keep in mind that encouragement along the way works wonders too, in building motivation and productivity.
  • Not standing by your employees
    Managers who do not support their workers lose their trust. Stand up for your team members, particularly if they are unfairly criticised. If you are there for them, they will be there for you.
  • Failing to give star treatment
    Many managers make the mistake of spending too much time and resources trying to improve the performance of average employees while ignoring their strongest talent. While skills building is important, it is the top talent that are often responsible for your company’s greatest successes.
  • Cutting back on training
    Think twice before cutting staff development budgets, since enhancing your employees’ skills can pay off in both the short and the long-term.

  • Equating busy with productive
    Don’t base employee recognition on who’s working the longest hours. Instead, reward people based on the results they generate towards company objectives.
  • Making work ‘mission impossible’
    Lay offs and budget cuts may mean one person will have to do the jobs of two or more people. Decide which projects are mission critical and delegate remaining tasks. Bring in temporary workers to assist your staff.
  • Waiting for an economic turnaround
    If you have a good idea, don’t wait for a recovery to implement it. You’ll get a head start on the competition by making your move now.
  • Sacrificing quality
    When people are busy, mistakes are more likely to occur. But don’t let service levels slide because your team is swamped. You’ll create a standard that will be difficult to break once workloads return to normal.
  • Making the wrong cuts
    Most companies have had to reduce spending, but be careful about slashing services to your clients. If they’re used to receiving certain benefits, taking them away can be a mistake.
  • Shifting the focus from the front lines
    Customer service counts all the more when times are tough. Are you doing everything possible to make sure those who are the first point of contact with your company send the right message? If these employees come across as indifferent, you could lose prospective and existing clients.
  • Tying your employees’ hands
    Empower your team to make decisions that will ensure positive customer and client experiences. Provide guidance on how to resolve dilemmas most successfully, and let them know what they did well and what could have been done better.

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