Business Heats Up, Employees Head Out - Vistage Executive Street Blog

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Business Heats Up, Employees Head Out

This is a guest post by Brad Farris.

The Wall Street Journal recently reported that, for the first time in 15 months, more workers quit than were fired or laid off. Over the last year and a half, the economic uncertainty has held most employees in their existing jobs. They didn’t feel confident to make a move no matter what the situation, creating a backlog of workers who feel they deserve a promotion, a raise or a better place to work. Now they’re out there looking for new jobs all at once.
At the same time, businesses that cut staffs, salaries and hours are starting to see demand return. As it does, the reduced staff struggles to deliver goods and services with the same level of service and timeliness that the clients expect. Clients are beginning to notice that the company is not as responsive as it used to be, leaving business owners caught in the middle.

We have clients who are starting to feel this pressure and it’s not fun. Just as sales are starting to pick up, their key person jumps ship – the competition just gave them a 20 percent raise and a promotion. Now, the company is forced to serve their customers with a skeleton staff, without their best person, all while having to recruit a replacement. It couldn’t get any worse! If you find yourself in this situation, there are a few things you can do.
1.    Appreciate the team you have. If you are still on reduced hours or haven’t restored your pay cuts, do it now. Other companies have not only restored what they took away, but they are hiring new team members and they are looking hungrily at your people. But just giving back what you took away isn’t going to gain you much loyalty. You need to do more. Are there key employees who have really stepped it up when you were short handed? Are they ready for a promotion and a raise?
2.    Be on the lookout for good talent. There is still some good talent available, but it’s going fast. Do you need to backfill some experienced talent? The time is now.
3.    Put some fun back into your workplace. Have a party, find a way to say thank you to appreciate those who stuck it out with you. What about movie tickets, an extra day off or a day at the ballpark with the families?
4.    Fill those holes. If you are experiencing defections, this is a time when getting help from a recruiter can really pay dividends. There are still lots of candidates and you don’t have time to sort through 200 resumes to find the 20 good ones. Get some help.
Those are some tangible things, but it’s also important to address the intangibles. When the economy went bad, some of us tended to “hunker down” in our offices or we were on the road trying to sell something. Our people felt disconnected at a time when they really needed to know what was going on. If this happened to you, it’s time to reverse the trend. You still need to be in front of the customer but your people need you too. They need to know you are looking forward, that you have a plan to get the company back to a place of strength – and that you can talk about that with them. Get back to having company meetings, reviewing the numbers with them and generally including them in the process of rebuilding and moving forward.
It may be that the recovery is as difficult as the fall, balancing the increasing demand with increasing costs. But putting in some time to make sure your people are happy and content will ensure that you are going into this time with the strongest possible team behind you.

Brad Farris is a small business advisor with Anchor Advisors, Ltd. in Chicago, Il. Since 2001 Anchor Advisors has been helping business & not-for-profit firms to grow, by helping them clarify their purpose, get the most from their people, keep their eye on key performance measures, and implement consistent processes. Brad is also the author of The Business Owner’s Champion: 6 Practices to Build your Nerve and your Business.