Archive for the 'staffing' Category

Wake up call for Gen Y workforce

Achtung! Wake up kids, it’s a new ball game!  Listen closely now, I’ve got a new word to add to your vocabulary….layoff.

Making my rounds as a small business consultant, in the past 90 days, I’ve noticed a perceptible change in the younger, less experienced workforce…the Gen Y folks in their early 20s. Now, I don’t want to make too much of this observation but…the new generation of workers is getting a rude awakening. No reason to repeat what you all know…times are tough. In some industries, real tough. And, compared to a just one year ago, layoffs are far more common.

Around the water cooler, staff members in the slowing home services business wonder…”Will I be next?”  As I said, to me, this newfound concern for job security is clear.

What does it mean? More importantly, what does it matter?  I believe those of us whose concern it is to manage and lead in tough times, have a real opportunity!  An older member of the management profession, I’ve seen it, lived it all before…backin the late 80s.  Recession then led to job cuts and more work for those who were kept on the team.  And, I must say, we learned alot about productivity, as delivered on a daily basis by concerned workers.

I suppose all I’m saying is….Maslow had it right! His well known “hierarchy of needs” theory is proven to be fact over and over again. Human beings react to the most urgent, most threatening situations in ways that preserve their lives and lifestyles. Nothing new here.  The point is, when people are worried about thier jobs, they tend to listen more closely to those who have the power to end their careers.  “What”, they wonder, “must I do to keep this job?” 

Smart leaders understand that, if only for a fleeting moment in time, Gen Y workers, self-possessed and focused on balance, flexibility and lots of control and immediate gratification in their lives, are going to pay more attention to how they can add value to the company.  This is a good thing!

Smart leaders will sieze the moment!  I’m not talking about grinding an extra 10 percent out of each frightened worker…I’m talking about teaching the new generation of workers how good they can be! Why? Because most have no idea how productive a person can be when focused on the task at hand vs. a consuming belief that life must be fun 24/7!

So, go for it boss! Crank up the training…have more team meetings. Let your best people know that, together, you will weather the recession and emerge a better, more productive team than ever before.

Teach your people to multi-task. Cross train everyone. Show people how good they can be and recognize the positive growth when you see it!

Let’s go America…time to turn off MSNBC and CNN…time to cut out the negative thinking….time to pull you team up by the boot straps! You can do it…your workers can do it….if you understand that it really does take an energized team approach to leading.

Go for it! After all…what is your next best option?


Layoffs and Cutbacks

So, everyone’s buzzing about hard times, a recession driven slow down and staff reductions. 

With all kinds of uncertainties, the most important question is….will I be on the cutback list?  Below, I’ll tell you how to know.  

First, though, understand I’ve lived through and survived several of these scenarios. I base my comments on those experiences. How did I make the “stay” list so often? Luck? Nope.  I was fortunate enough to score some important points; I had what the company wanted.  Do you?

If you have the guts to look honestly at yourself, not just at your self-image but the way others, especially superiors, see you, you will know what’s coming.

First, I’ll focus on the front line worker’s perspective:

1. Understand, companies cut from the bottom to the top. People with the power to cut, never cut themselves. Makes sense, right? Managers in the middle of your organization will be asked to force rank their teams, top to bottom.  If you fall in the lower half, start your job search now! Look at yourself vs. everyone else on your team.

2. Forced rankings place a net value on each employee.  The idea is to measure anything and everything you can do for your employer during this difficult period.  The more you can deliver, the higher your ranking.

3. To approximate your chances of surviving the next cut, take an honest, analytical look at yourself. Look not only at what you see but what others see in you. Focus on these areas of your performance:

*Can I be relied on to meet expectations 100% of the time, regardless of challenges?

*Do I complain about unusual assignments and the occasional request to do something extra…above and beyond my job description?

*How broad based and flexible am I? How many positions can I fill on at least a temporary basis.

*Am I a seen by others as postivie, a team player who is always part of the solution vs. the problemr?

*Do my senior managers like being around me? Do they voluntarily converse with me, making direct eye contact? Or, am I avoided?

*Am I a valuable multi-tasker?

*Do I have the potential to grow and develop as the current business climate brightens and the company regains it’s ability to grow?

*Finally, and you can’t underestimate the gravity of this one….what is the state of office and compnay politics? Who has been sucking up to whom? To whom are favors owed. How secure is your boss and what will he/she do to solidify his or her position. Will you become a “sacrificial lamb”?

Answer those questions and you’ll know whether or not to you are on the hit list.  Good luck!

Now, what about mid-level managers? If this is you, don’t think for a moment you are above it all.  The first thing top managers do in times of impending crisis, is to line up the “sacrificial lambs”. I’ve even seen top people promote these “lambs” so that when the day comes, they will have someone on whom to place blame, shielding themselves.  That’s just the way it is…survival of the fittest isn’t just a silly theory, it’s life.

So, managers in the middle, look at the above list of perceived values and evaluate yourself. Are you really vital to the success of your struggling organizaion? Or, are you an overpaid, fast-talker who has spent the last two or three years telling yourself how great you are. Look at the hard results of your efforts. Can you justify your position? If you were looking down the org chart at yourself, what would your judgment be?

Since you are nearer the top of the organization, you have more exposure to senior managers.  Evaluate your relationships. How are you viewed from above:

*Are you consulted before decisions are taken?

*Are you included in important meetings or sent a meeting summary?

*In meetings, are you and your topics consistently at the bottom of the agenda?

*When extra staff was last added, was it in your department of elsewhere?

*How did your department budget fair last time around?

Do you get the message? If you don’t feel the company places top value on your funtion, and this can be proven by answering the questions above, now it the time to polish up the resume and start networking..which you should have been doing all along.

And, to you, my mid-level friends, an extra measure of’ll need it!

New Administration, hard times, NOT business friendly

Like it or not, republican or democrat, the die is cast; there will be a measurable change in your business model, and soon.  My objective is not to sell you on a particular philosophy but to alert you to the inevitable.  With higher taxes on even small to mid-sized businesses and reduced discretionary spending, you owners and managers out there will now have to control costs more tightly.  If you don’t, the alternative will surely be less on the bottom line.

When growth comes, not from adding revenue and taking advantage of accompanying economies of scale but through budget crunching cost reductions, YOU WONT BE ADDING PEOPLE, will you. Soon, you will come to the realization that you are going to have to succeed with the people and equipment on hand.  And, if you are normal, this is a frightening concept.  

I’d like to suggest you think about the one thing that does make sense for the short-term future; get more productivity from the people you have!

I understand, asking today’s ‘gen y’ worker to do more is akin to blasphemy but…you gotta do what you gotta do.  The good news is, even workers who want more time off, more flexibility on the job and continuing benefits, even those folks will respond to greater recognition and an enhanced position on the team.

Think about it…the starting quarterback is injured. As he takes his seat on the bench, you look hopefully at the back up. You tell the back up; “This is your you can be somebody, you can help us win the game. And, when we win, YOU win.  More money, pride in knowing you are the best, maybe even a promotion to the staring team.” 

My point is, when you are in a pinch, if you understand how to impact human behavior, you can win every time.  So, you don’t  tell people times are tough, that the new congress has jacked your taxes and you will earn less money. You don’t say that because nobody but you cares! What you do say is this; “Team, I know everyone here is concerned about the economy, our jobs and our company future.  It’s natural to worry when all you see in the media is a growing unemployment number and businesses failing.  Well, we are not going to fail and YOU are not going to lose your jobs, period!  We’ve been handed a tough situation but, if we all pitch in, we will weather this storm…and we’ll do it by working together and working smart!

Having reassured your team, you explain that everyone, including you, the leader, will need to do more short-term but, when we win, everyone will share in the success. [Don’t say that unless you genuinely mean it]

What I’m suggesting is, in tough times, when you may even need to cut staff, you can still WIN with your core team. It requires “hands-on” coaching and an understanding that, if treated with a modicum of respect and shown they are important, no, vital to success, your people will work harder and do more to help your team win.

This is my consulting message to clients and I wanted to share it with you.  Thinks about your management style. Are you bossing or coaching?  Will your people go to battle for you becasuse they understand you will do the same for them? Or, are people simply cogs in a gear wheel?

Tough times require a refocused effort to create and maintain a positive workplace enviornment and it begins with letting your people know YOU CANNOT DO IT ALONE!

A Leader’s Secret Weapon

  “Can’t talk…gotta go”. 

 “Hey, boss, hang on…I got a question”.

 “I said I gotta go…upset customer”.

Humm….sound familiar?  Boss can’t talk to employee, has customer issue to resolve. And, of course, as we’ve all been taught, THE CUSTOMER COMES FIRST!  Or does he/she?

Take a closer look at how you really outght to run your business.  I have a slogan; I use it in all my triaining/consulting sessions. It goes like this: “CRM [Customer Relations Management] begins with ERM [Employee Relations Management].  Get my point?

I don’t care what business you are in, if you have customers, you need to focus on serving them in a special way.  If you don’t, in this economy, with choices galore, they will disapprear like the morning fog.

So, how do we successfully serve, retain and profit from our customer base? Through our people.

If you want happy customers, start by building a culture that includes and is based on happy people. “Can’t be done these days”, you say.  Wrong. It can is is being done…today.

Without a long explanation, suffice to say that a primary cause of business failure, is a preceding failure to focus on your key resouce, the human resource.  We work real hard on planning, figuring out how to execute, etc. But, when it comes to the people on whom we depend to make it happen, we spend little time and attention to ensure success. Period.

A moment on something I learned as a young, know-nothing econ student; The Pareto Principle. All who sell, or have ever sold anything, have heard of it.  Still, if the PP is unfamiliar, let me lay it out as concisely as possible.

In 1906, an Italian eonomist named Vilfredo Pareto, while studying the laws of distribution [how things are naturally spread out], discovered something important. Simply, that a majority [he figured about 80%] of the value of time spent and effort expended, came from a minority [he fiuured about 20%] of the things we do.  We get most of the return on our time and effort from a very few things we do during a typical day, week, month or year. Lately, this distribution principle has been termed, The Pareto Principle.

The lesson, to a young sales rep is, figure out who your highest potential customers are and spend you time with them. Don’t waste time on the masses that return little in payback for time invested.

The PP can be applied to management time in any business, as well. Ask do you spend your day….on things or on people?  Because people are tougher to deal with and control than things or tasks, we tend to gravitate to things we can control. Even familiar problems precede dealing with our people in terms of the percieved degree of difficulty and discomfort. So, for most managers/leaders, people come second.  The team comes second.

Now, that would be fine…except for one’s our people who enable us to succeed, to reach management and company objectives.  No doubt about it…as good old Vilfredo learned, you will get more bang from your time use and focus buck when you spend it on high payback activities that involve people!

What kind of activities? Oh, let’s start with recruiting, attracting the best in your business segment. Then, how about training them; ensuring they succeed, which, of course is hugely motivating to the worker, leading to greater productivity and lower staff turnover. And how about follow up coaching; reinforcing learning to form strong productive habits? Am I getting through?

Stop focusing on things, spend your time with your people and the investment will be returned 10 fold.

Smart managers and leaders know the secret to success…the secret weapon; the Pareto Principle.

Coaching Required for “Gen Y” Workers

Coaches Win – Bosses Lose!  It’s really as simple as that.  Try to “boss” today’s workers and you might as well hang out the white flag of surrender because it just doesn’t work.

Do you know there are almost 40 million “millineals” out there?  If you are a manager, or are involved in staffing, that fact alone should get your attention.  And, the “millineals” or “generation y” workers tend to think differently about work.

Basically, younger workers [between 18 and 26], today’s “millineals”, with more career choices, are pickier about where they work and why.  Even in a recessionary economy, workers have more career destination options than only a few years ago.  In our service economy, people are typically the key factor in determining a companies success or failure.  And workers make career decisions based on this premise; I will take a job if it looks good, but I will only keep it if it feels good.  And it had better feel good fast! Now that is changed thinking.

So, what’s new?  How have expanded career options impacted worker thinking? Here’s a starter list:

  • I no longer work to live, I live to work, my way.
  • I don’t take a job to make my company a success, I work to get what I want from the company.
  • I want maximum flexibility with a minimum of rules, procedures and boundries.
  • I’m convinced my lack of experience simply makes it easier for me to see the world objecivley and that “old time” managers are jaded by the screwed up life they’ve lived.
  • I want money, and I want benefits, and I want them day one on the job.
  • I expect a complete training program with lots of “hands-on” follow up on the job.
  • I demand respect … before I’ve earned it.
  • I want my opinions included in the decision making process…whether or not I have an intelligent idea.
  • I want to be taught, not told
  • I want you to sell me, not tell me.

I could go on…but won’t.  The point is, if you are in a position of hiring, training or leading people in today’s workplace, you’d better learn to be a coach vs. a boss! You’d better understand that the way to keep your winners is to teach them how to succeed, and begin day one!  If you stake your management success on a building great plan and simply make assignments, without concern for worker motivation to hit your goals, you’ll come up short every time.

Houston, we have a problem; many of today’s managers haven’t lived in this “new world” of people management. They have not been coached, they have been bossed. They are the survivors of an outdated management culture. And many sturggle mightly to lead effectively.  They simply don’t have the requisite skills.

Back in the 20th century, lots of research was done on people, and their attitudes about working.  Most managers fell into a style described as “Theory X”.  These folks believe in work, period. Hard work built America. It’s the task that’s important, not the person doing it. People, they believed, don’t really want to work but will do so if, and only if pushed, prodded and threatened.  No surprise, this thinking came from the hardships of the great depression. During the 30s and 40s, the period before WWll, people took any job they could find.  Of course, many hated what they did each day but working  put food on the table. 

Things are different today. Even in our recessionary economy, workers have more choices. So far, putting food on the table has not been an issue; not for most. Today, gen y workers struggle with decisions like which laptop to buy or where they’ll sit at the critically important concert this weekend. They want to spend more time on themselves, less at work.  Fewer hours, more flexibility, that is ther objective.  They want choices, and they want them now.

So, in view of this undeniable paradigm shift, will you lead effectively? Will you be able to accomplish your business goals through people? Or, will you sit back and complain about how nobody wants to work anymore. Your choice.

These days, I spend most of my time helping managers cope with the unavoidable requirement to learn leadership skills, to impact behavior.  Anyone, I believe, can learn to lead, and must.

Building new human interaction or coaching skills requires ongoing management learning.    Take a close look in the mirror. Ask yourself if you are prepared to win with people.

A few questions for you:

1. Are you a coach or boss? Do you understand the difference?

2. Is employee turnover an issue in your business?

3. Are you attracting enough of the right people?

4. Do you prioritize tasks or people?

5. When performance is unsatisfactory, do you know how to change it?

6. Do your team members respect or resent you?

7. Do you inspire your team to achieve, to be the best they can be?

8. Bottom line, are you living in the management past?

Where Did All The Good Workers Go?


An article explaining how anyone can build a powerhouse team.


Author – Bill Hoopes, Trainer and Organizational Effectiveness Expert


            Time and experience have taught me a lot about solving tough people problems. I don’t have all the answers.  I do know that no single formula works consistently in all situations.  And I have had some experiences (successful and unsuccessful) that have led me to conclude there are specific, positive things that you can do to make success through people possible, or even probable. While I cannot guarantee solutions in every situation, I can guarantee improvement.  If that sounds fair—read on.


Woody & Bear speak out from the grave –


            I’ll admit it, there may have been times when building a team of strong, loyal and consistently productive people seemed fairly simple…I just can’t remember any!  As an Ohio State Buckeye fan, I recall the way Woody Hayes put it: “You win with people.”  For him, it was that simple.  Find the right people, teach them what they need to know, hold out a ”carrot” like a Rose Bowl trip and get out of the way.  Paul “Bear” Bryant, legendary coach at the University of Alabama, felt the same: “Find some talent, show them how to make the first touchdown, and back off—the rest is simple.”   But that’s ancient history, right?

            Is it really the same for us today, in business?  As a manager and management trainer for many years, I’ve come to realize that, while Woody’s and Bear’s level of competition was higher and more intense, and while winning or losing was determined in an afternoon, the principal determinants of success in sports apply equally to other endeavors, like business.

            But what is it specifically that leads to success?  Let‘s look closer. We’ve told ourselves for years that winning with people means simply finding the “right” people, training them to proficiency and direct their daily efforts.  And, sure, we must provide consistent encouragement and positive feedback.  The icing on the cake is the incentive to work. Something like a pot of gold [motivator] is placed at the end of the rainbow (task completion deadline), and miraculous things happen — sometimes. 

Is it that simple? Do we clearly understand why, then, more managers, leaders and coaches don’t win consistently?  Conversely, do we know why some teams just can’t lose — even in the face of tough competition?  Is the answer really just “great talent?”  Ask George Steinbrenner if buying great players is enough to win.  The answer is NO. Great players, like great employees, make it easier.  But in today’s workplace, staffing with 100% champs isn’t realistic.


How we can win:  Winning through people requires a clear, two-part, approach.  We must:

            * First, expand your ability to discover and attract the best of the labor pool. This is NOT a dream! I’ve done it and helped others recruit winners. Job one is building a core of essential team skills.

            * Next, make each work day a more positive and productive experience for our “starters” and “bench warmers” alike. This takes focus and coaching skill. And everyone reading this article IS capable of coaching successfully!


Keep this in mind; no team ever won all the marbles with “stars” alone. It’s the competent, supporting bull pen that usually makes the difference.  And it is from that second level that you must find and develop the next generation of leaders.

            You must work both sides of the street simultaneously. First, don’t let up in your recruiting efforts to upgrade where necessary, replacing losers, while, at the same time, giving focused consistent attention to those currently on staff.  Both are critical parts of an effective people plan.


Having said all that, I concede that the commonly accepted reason for failing with people remains, “Just aren’t enough good people these days.”  The implication is: Good people (the kind we want and need to win) were there, but no more. Evidently, we must conclude, the “good people” have vanished from the scene. They are gone!  I hear it daily. And to complicate things, we’ve talked ourselves into believing that we cannot win the game or reach our objectives with anything less than perfect employees. That’s silly. 


Smart leaders succeed all the time with less talent and the right attitude.  Get that? Attitude. I can teach an average person to excel IF the positive attitude is there and is genuine.


If you accept my premise, perhaps you’ll trade in today’s pessimism for a shot at my experience-based optimism.


For now, consider what I call the “Magnificent Seven”:


7 Ways to Build a Powerhouse Organization


These basic requirements can make your job as manager, leader or owner much easier:


1. Create a clear definition of your business identity, goals and values.

2. Develop a practical philosophy of leadership [how you’ll interact with the troops].

3. Study yourself, your past influences, how you came to form your attitudes about people and work. Fine-tune, identify the “leadership style” that will work best for you. [one on one situations, team meetings, honesty, involvement, info sharing, setting a positive leadership example. Where do you fit, your preferences…there is NO one best “style”.]

4. Commit yourself to balancing people/task relationships. [Most are task oriented]

5. Develop a comprehensive human resource strategy. [A culture that promotes the advancement of your team members…who, in turn will build your business.]

6. Make an accurate assessment of the positive and negative elements of your employees’ working environment today.

7. Use your management power sources intelligently. [Hint, your personality is your strongest source of power….so, don’t fear human interaction, learn to use it!]


Obviously, each of the seven steps above can be a project in and of itself.  I’ve spent nearly a quarter century helping managers win with people. If you need help, let me know