It is impossible to escape the messages that come from every medium – print media, television, websites, radio and blogs, every minute of every day. Recession, Recession, Recession. Thousands of layoffs announced daily. Retirement and 401k accounts drying up completely. Delinquent mortgage payments and foreclosures. Stories that are so tragic and disturbing they are incomprehensible.
Since January 4th, major U.S. employers have announced over 135,000 workforce reductions, not including businesses that have ceased, or will cease to exist (Circuit City, 30,000 jobs). In terms of percentages, this ranges from a low of 2% of the workforce at Home Depot to highs of 18% of the workforce at Caterpillar and 21% of the workforce at AK Steel. So why am I restating the obvious, and what does this mean?
It means that at Home Depot 98% of the workforce will remain employed, along with 82% of the workforce at Caterpillar, and on and on and on. Does this mean that times are good? Far from it.
What it means is that whether you employ 20 people, 2,000 people, or 20,000 people (unless you are going out of business) you have a significant number of people working for you and looking to you for direction.
In many cases, these employees that you are now counting onare at the best very nervous, and at worst completely unproductive. Many have sat next to co-workers who have been fired, know someone who has been let go, have lost a large chunk of savings in the stock market and are frightened at the prospects for the future.
In order for a company to succeed in this environment, each and every one of these employees must be functioning at optimal capacity and producing great work product. If you are a CEO, CFO, CIO, COO, EVP, VP or manager, and you are sending anything close to the messages being sent by other major employers, your are in trouble. Good luck!
Communications will play a huge role in determining who succeeds in 2009 and who does not, both for employers and employees. If you are an employee and you can not clearly articulate the value you bring to your organization, you are hurting. If you are an employer, your job is twice as difficult — you MUST communicate your value externally, and at the same time keep your workforce, and your top talent, motivated and energized.
So what can you do right now?
5 (five) crucial steps include:
1. Developing a message and creating a plan to communicate that message throughout your organization.
2. Be open. Be available. Talk to people. If you are a leader in your organization, be seen. Nothing is worse than a CEO, President, EVP, etc., who stays behind closed doors and remains silent.
3. Talk to your top talent. If you think you have talked to them enough, go back and talk to them one more time. Trust me, if your top talent is nervous, and they are, and you are not communicating with them, they are looking elsewhere. As times get more challenging your top talent becomes more valuable.
4. Be honest. Do not lie. Do not sugarcoat. While it might get you through an initial tough spot, it will destroy your credibility and ability to deliver any message, either internally or externally.
5. Be consistent. Don’t purchase a plane after you have announced 50,000+ layoffs the year before, and have applied for, and received, a Federal bailout. Remember that everything you say and do as a leader sends a message. Everything.