Many companies were forced to make decisions that directly affected their employees both in the short term and the long term.
Companies reduced staff; cut wages; re-level employees; reduced benefits; reduced or even eliminated pension plans and post retirement health care; eliminated discretionary spending and whatever else they needed to do to survive. Some survived but many didn’t.
According to David DiMartile of DiMartile HR a few companies took a different path.
He points out these companies chose to involve their employees by sharing all related business information and asked the question “what can we do together to cut costs and survive through the crisis period”?
DiMartile argues most of these companies not only survived but came out of the crisis stronger and more capable of satisfying the customer and dealing with business challenges.
The reason was this approach significantly attributed to building trust with employees and the payback was employee engagement.
Adds DiMartile those companies made decisions that negatively impacted employees probably noticed that employees stayed and tried to help the company survive during this period. They had to stay, they had no choice. There were no other jobs to go to. The employees had families to feed, mortgages to pay, kids to put through school.
Most employees have accepted that the old concept of employment for life is now a myth, both from the employers’ perspective as well as the employees’.
The employer-employee relationship is much more complex than when it was based simply on the exchange of wages and benefits. What is important to employees is the work environment and how they are treated.
- Employees want to feel valued, to know that they are making a contribution and that their contribution is wanted and recognized.
- Employees want challenge and support and information and they want to feel like they belong and are important.
These attributes are going to become ever more critical for employers to understand as the job market opens up and employees have choices. Couple this with the foreshadowing of what the shortfall of talent will be when baby boomers start leaving the workforce in numbers well beyond the numbers available to replace them.
DiMartile argues the creation of an engaging environment will be the key to retaining talent and having a competitive advantage.
He believes an “engaging environment” is when employees feel committed to help the business succeed.
- Employees knowing what the customers want and striving to exceed their expectations.
- Employees knowing what the business priorities are and being involved in helping to achieve the business goals.
- Employees opening sharing their ideas in a welcoming environment and being recognized for their contributions;
- Where everyone is treated with respect and dignity;
- Where everyone understands and accepts that their personal success is dependent on the success of the business; and
- Where everyone treats company resources as if it were their own.
DiMartile says the challenge of creating this type of work environment involves the need to develop a deep understanding of what levers are available to leaders to use within their organization to help change the culture.
Leaders need to understand:
- How critical their role is to changing the culture of an organization.
- They have to be an active participant in the process and that they need to be the role model and teacher for the rest of the organization. Leaders get the culture they deserve!
Adds DiMartile, “The culture that exists in an organization is a reflection of what leadership demonstrates to be important, not by what they say but by what they do and where they focus and the decisions they make.”
He adds “The challenge of changing a culture starts and ends with building trust in the organization; trust that the leader cares about the business; trust that the leader cares about what happens to employees; trust that the leader care about the customers and shareholders AND trust that when necessary the leader will step up to the plate and do what’s right for the business and the people and the shareholders not one at the exclusion of the other.”
David DiMartile is the president and managing director of DiMartile HR at http://www.dimartilehr.com