Human Resources: Protecting Your Key Asset

  • Human Resources: Protecting Your Key Asset
Issue 16, September 2009.

Since the recession hit Ukraine in last quarter of 2008 unemployment figures have risen sharply. According to the International Labour Organization the real unemployment rate in Ukraine is in or  around 9.5%, while over the last year more than 500,000 people are thought to have lost their jobs. This difficult economic climate has meant serious implications for employers which can lead to two developments: a decrease in employee morale, and an increase in the workloads which individual employees are being asked to take on. What steps can employers implement today in order to pull themselves out of the downward spiral and make the negatives less pronounced?

Silence is idle but deadly

Employees today are under unprecedented stress. They are uncertain about their futures and under constant pressure thinking about whether their jobs will be the next to go in a new possible round of downsizing. In this situation where both employees and employers find themselves on edge, the worst thing that employers can do is to keep employees in the dark. If companies keep information to themselves, this will only aggravate the stress that is already brewing within the company and lead to employee frustration. Instead, they must communicate clearly what is happening internally, with their suppliers, partners and clients, while making sure everyone knows what is expected from them as employees. At the same time the messages that employers send to their employees must be well thought out, timely and sincere. This simple step will alleviate employee anxiety and motivate staff by making sure they know they are important members of the team and a valued resource for the company.

Employers must set clear objectives
Employees today are being tasked with more responsibilities and this means that each employee is not only more overworked. This situation often leads to quick employee burn out and makes employees resentful towards their employers. If employers want to make sure that their personnel are on-board with them in these tough times, they must remain engaged at all levels and take on the roles of mentors and partners. One way in which they can help employees is to set clear objectives. This will help employees set priorities and make their jobs that more manageable. If employees think that every task is equally important they will concentrate on everything and this will lead to decreased productivity and performance in every area of their jobs.

Distribute work load fairly
It is a natural inclination on the side of all people to trust work to those who have a proven track record of high performance. In the midst of this economic downturn where people have lost their jobs, employers tend to assign tasks to those employees they know will deliver. This is a mistake. If employers let their natural instincts guide them, their top performers will burn out and they will be left in a worse off situation. Employers must assess the strengths and weaknesses and interests of their entire staff and distribute the work load accordingly. This move will have a positive spin-off as the remaining employees will engage in work they were previously not exposed to and this will motivate them to do their best. They will see that they are linchpins in their respective company operations which management trusts. Both parties will end up winning more and your top performers will continue to do their jobs without losing steam.

Recognize achievement in any way you can
Recent surveys carried out both in Ukraine and in Europe show a similar picture when it comes to rewarding employees for their performance. On average, about 50% of employers questioned indicated that they will be cutting bonuses, about 3% will be increasing bonuses for performance, 30% will be putting a freeze on bonuses at already existing levels, while the remaining 17% will be looking to restructure their bonus schemes. These statistics indicate that companies are adopting a reactionary approach to their businesses. They are concentrating on cutting their expenditures at the detriment to employees that are left holding a significant chunk of the responsibility for company performance. Companies that know how to think outside the box are adopting an opposite approach. They are looking to motivate their employees and move their business forward in these tough times. These are the companies who will survive the storm and find that after the economic recession is over they have a strong company spirit, their retention levels will remain high all throughout the downturn and continue
to be high, and their losses won’t be that severe. Companies should take a long hard look at their balance sheets and see how they can motivate employees who are doing a good job and pass on their profits to those who bring them in. At the same time employers must remember that motivation is not always monetary. Experience has shown that public recognition for a job well done can go just as far. Every employer must remember that their most valuable assets are people and people need to feel recognized for their work whether it be in the form of monetary compensation or a simple “thank-you” or a certificate of appreciation for a job well done.