Sunday, April 5, 2009

Growing Your Business in a Flat Marketplace

In the current world economy with its essentially “flat marketplace”, technological innovation or financial restructuring can have little positive impact on your organizational performance. However, organizations can gain market share by leveraging skills, abilities, knowledge and experience within human systems and the contacts and networks available through social systems. Valuable resources housed in your organization’s human and social systems could be used to grow business by targeting markets driven by fear and dominated by complacency.

Organizations can expand the capacity of their human and social systems for information exchange without major additional costs by increasing the velocity, volume and efficiency of exchanges between staff members. In particular non fulltime staff such as contractors, temps, part-timers and casuals should be given extra opportunities to relate to, and communicate with, others at work. This can result in increased mutual recognition, reciprocity, and a greater sense of social acceptance.

Developing high quality workplace contacts through increases in social acceptance can strengthen the capacity of communication exchanges and improve group-wide communication processes. High capacity communication processes built on mutual trust and shared acceptance can create healthier workplaces and lead to more profitable enterprises. Healthy workplaces can contribute to organizational well being and through innovative use of interpersonal communication and shared social systems create longer term positive organizational growth.

By taking new and different approaches to your organization’s human and social systems, you can grow your business beyond the limitations posed by a flat marketplace. Ways of leveraging your organization’s human and social systems could include:

  • Reframing workplace social relations within your organization by discarding any age gender–based stereotypes and replacing any discriminatory decision processes with new and improved ways of working together.
  • Rewarding your managers for exploring ways of catching people doing something right at work and praising staff members for doing their work well.
  • Discarding any currently used 360 degree systems of performance feedback based largely on anonymous feedback and replacing them with more transparent, authentic systems of performance evaluation.
  • Helping new staff members, including non fulltime staff become well socialized into your organization’s practices, safety procedures and ways of doing things.
  • Using available work space, systems and social opportunities to encourage the exchange of information on workplace related issues between your organization’s staff members.
  • Replacing on screen computer-based self directed learning systems with mentors - widely respected staff members who are familiar with the business and its products and services - to lift staff members’ confidence and resilience, enhance “connectedness” and accelerate understanding of the business and its customers.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Recruiting Workers During a Recession

The great concern held by employers during the early part of 2008 related to how to recruit people most effectively and help fuel their organisations’ growth. One year on in first quarter 2009, organisations are faced with equally important workforce decisions. This time around however employment decisions rest on whether employers should retain or release staff. It is anticipated that as the New Year unfolds employment decision-making will move quickly beyond retention to a point of how best to release staff from organisations as the economic environment further contracts.

Some organisations will make decisions to release staff on the LIFO basis, or the last in is the first out process, with those joining most recently being the first asked to leave. Many managers will however base their decisions to release staff more on the perceived value they attach to different categories of staff. Who is considered closer to retirement and therefore easier to release, who is most up to date on the technology used by the organisation and therefore worth retaining, or who is perceived as the better longer term investment in being more easily trained, or seen as more flexible and willing to learn at work?

University level research suggests that managers’ employment decisions in stress filled periods such as those currently prevailing in Australian workplaces are more likely to be driven by prevailing age-gender based stereotypes rather than logic and rationality. Employment decisions will be made on the basis of emotion and stereotypical beliefs about a category’s attributes rather than based on the organisation’s stated needs or on good business sense. Beliefs like those found in prevailing age-gender related stereotypes which portray older female workers, those 45 plus years of age, as less likely to stay with an organisation, not needing their job, less trainable, as inflexible, change resistant, and slow to learn. Stereotypical beliefs that have been found extremely biased and discriminatory against older females, to be generally incorrect and to form an illogical underpinning to employment decisions

Older workers, particularly older females are easier to be made redundant when seen as closer to retirement or not needing to hold down a job as much as their younger colleagues. Similarly older females perceived as slow in picking up the latest technology or lacking in trainability levels normally associated with younger members of staff are more likely to be released before their younger colleagues.

Employment decisions, when largely based on stereotypical beliefs about a group’s qualities can however prove to be extremely costly for organisations and for the community at large. Better to base retention type decisions on someone’s demonstrated on job performance rather than stereotypical beliefs unrelated to that individual’s real value to the organisation.