Recession — manage your people resources, Part 2

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In the current economic climate it is more important than ever to manage your resources, including people resources, to best effect. Hard times can bring issues that have been simmering in the background to a head, and raise new ones that you may never have dealt with before.

If you’re recruiting you need to ensure you get the right person. Prior to the downturn people were able to move on if they weren’t satisfied with their job for some reason.
But now they’re likely to stay put, and resist being moved on. As financial pressures increase there’s potential for misconduct issues such as theft or fraud. Stress can take its toll and manifest itself in staff performance issues and compatibility issues between staff.

However workplace dissatisfaction arises, employers bear the brunt of it. Managing it and the demands of keeping the business running can be a challenge.
In the second of a three-part series of articles, RMBF in-house counsel Leoni Carterlooks at managing existing employees, and some things to consider at the beginning, middle and end of an employment relationship.

You may have to deal with issues you’ve never confronted before, such as performance, compatibility, misconduct (such as fraud and theft) and personal issues and stress.
Whichever it is, deal with it promptly, thoroughly, carefully and fairly.

Promptly: Don’t let issues fester, and don’t let people think you really don’t mind if they do, or don’t do, certain things.
Thoroughly: Make sure you investigate any issues and record any evidence and discussions you have had.

Carefully: Don’t take anyone’s word for it, ensure that you have made all the enquiries that you reasonably can and don’t jump to conclusions. Get expert help with possible fraud or theft issues as these are a legal minefield.

Fairly: It is essential that you always give the employee an opportunity to be heard, and that you take the time to consider what they’ve said. Make sure they know they can have a support person with them.

Put all your information in front of them so they know exactly what it is you think has happened. Don’t use slang or “beat around the bush”. Use plain language so there’s no possibility of being misunderstood.

If a compatibility or stress issue is involved, consider whether you might wish to offer assistance, perhaps in the way of a counselling session.
The stress may not be being generated through work but at home, and people can’t always leave home at home.

Managing staff vs work volume

If work drops off you may be considering letting some staff go. If you have a great team and think the situation may only be temporary, you might wish to suggest to your staff that they move to a four-day work week, or perhaps take a day’s annual leave a fortnight, until work improves.
Try to agree on a time frame — perhaps two or three months — and then look at it again.

Staff morale

Don’t underestimate the impact of morale. It helps to maintain a positive workplace culture. That doesn’t mean you ignore the issues, but that you don’t let the “doom and gloom” talk that goes with recession to take hold in your workplace. Remember to have fun!

Next month: Part 3 — Restructuring and Redundancy