Unraveling in the recovery

Business is improving and there is definitely an uptick in client activity.

Business is improving and there is definitely an uptick in client activity. The optimism in the market is fueling expanded campaigns and initiatives.

After the massive constraints of last year, its almost difficult to remember how we did things before. As difficult as 2009 was, the challenge in 2010 is to navigate how we unravel ourselves from that environment.

Here are my thoughts on employee retention. 

The folks who are still with us are tough, team players, and real survivors. They learned how to do more with less.  These people need to be recognized quickly with whatever means are available, such as reinstatement of raises, spot bonuses, promotions, or just public recognition for being a trooper. What are you doing to keep them as recruiters are calling and job opportunities are opening up?

Reinstating 360-degree performance reviews, goal-setting (beyond basic survival), career growth, and training are the next place to look. Many of us had to forego a full HR function last year. It's time to reinvest in that.

What do your star performers need to grow? What challenges would they like to tackle this year. What sorts of customized professional development workshops do your people want?  And when was the last time you asked them?

Proper staffing of accounts is always a challenge. In tough times, it's easy to give your top performers the biggest, and toughest, accounts. We can fall into the trap of doing whatever it takes to keep our clients happy, often at our employees' expense. The trouble is you often don't know when someone is burned out until you're through the storm, and then it might be too late.

Think about if you can shuffle the deck for those folks, institute a client rotation schedule if possible, and hire more support for employees to lighten their load.

All of this comes down to thinking about “the new normal” and communicating with your employees about how you expect things to change. As much as we learned about how communication in a crisis is critical, it is just as important when the crisis is over and you are managing through a transitional period. In a service business, life begins and ends with your people. Take care of them, and you have the foundation for a healthy business.

Sabrina Horn is the president and CEO of the Horn Group.

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