THOSE WHO REMAIN
What are the new core skills and competencies required of these employees? If roles have been redefined, how do employees know what is expected of them? Who is qualified for the newly defined positions, and how is it determined who will remain?
The employees who have remained after reorganization, downsizing, or reengineering are survivors, frequently with a “survivor” mentality. They have the skills and competencies that, it has been determined by some process, will carry the company into the future. But many of these remaining employees are on permanent overload, operating with increased speed in new and unfamiliar terrain, doing more with a great deal less. Are they, in fact, the right people for the company’s new direction? Was the process used to retain these employees designed to identify the skills and capabilities needed in the organization’s newly envisioned future?
These surviving employees are also working in a transition period where, unlike in the past, there are no corporate promises of future employment. Even being good at their job is no defense against sudden unemployment. The protective good will and trust of the past is almost gone. Companies may have secured a stronger financial position, but not without cost to employee morale, which in some companies is nearly bankrupt. As a result, corporations are only now beginning to understand the impact of discarding the psychological connection that once existed between companies and their employees. They recognize the need to change the corporate culture from one of employee loyalty (and perhaps dependence) to one that today fosters resiliency, adaptability, and independence.
After an employee leaves for another opportunity, what are the business issues associated with a position or function? How critical is the nature of the position? Is there high turnover in that job?
THE ROLE OF VALUES IN ALIGNMENT OF THE EXTENDED ENTERPRISE
What are the values employees must embrace to be successful in an organization? How do you hire and train people in a way that supports and actualizes those values? If the game has changed, can a company hire and/or train to achieve a new culture?
Often after downsizing, many companies have benefitted from outsourcing. According to a recent study published by the Outsourcing Institute, on average, companies have seen a 9 percent cost savings and a 15 percent increase in capacity and quality with outsourcing. In fact, experts these days are predicting that in the future there will be a minimum skeleton crew of full-time employees and that companies will be comprised of individual and organizational alliances that come together and disband based on market conditions. In this initial stage, however, many companies fear the use of multiple outside resources, even with all the upside advantages, because the chilling downside is that it may breed strong, opportunistic competitors. Also problematic with the use of part-time and temporary employees is the company’s inability to ensure their alignment with the company mission and the brand.
Today, it is critical for companies to hire people who share their values and can effectively reflect their brand. Creating alignment on values, essentially hiring and developing people who are able to reflect what the company stands for, is far more difficult with an extended enterprise. This enterprise may have temporary, part-time, or external employees; it may have a global workforce, one that may have complex alliances and distribution channels. It can, however, be done. Consider the original and innovative approaches of Saturn, for example, that harnessed the power of a renewed corporate culture and competitively advanced the organization.
The traditional approaches to selecting and developing people were once grounded in a known range of skill sets and predictable performance.
RE-EVALUATING HOW THE WORK GETS DONE
After an employee leaves for another opportunity, what are the business issues associated with a position or function? How critical is the nature of the position? Is there high turnover in that job? What is the need to improve or change performance in the position? And what will be the future competencies and responsibilities required of that position? Should the employee be replaced at all?
Companies are also finding that after downsizing, some of the key remaining people are leaving for new opportunities. The response to this loss in the past would have been to immediately hire a replacement whose skills closely resembled those of the successful employee who left. But today, the loss of a key employee typically summons a more complex response.
First, the question arises, why did he or she leave? If the company wanted him or her to remain, what could the organization have done differently? Second, when an employee leaves it changes more than just who occupies a position, it changes how the work is performed. Third, employees normally participate in groups and teams and have informal strategies and tactics to get the job done, most of which does not appear anywhere on paper within the company. It is often these undocumented behaviors, attributes, methods, interactions, and personal objectives of the departed employee that get the real work done. These informal processes are rarely understood, let alone formalized and replicated to the organization’s gain. So, instead of immediately being filled, that vacancy represents an opportunity to re-evaluate and alter how the work is done. Perhaps it will be determined that it is better to go outside the company to provide the service once performed by the employee. In any case, changes in personnel today can have far more impact than in the hierarchical, loaded-with-redundancy organizations of the past.
HIRING FOR NEW IDEAS–THE GLASS BREAKERS
Does the company have current information about competencies, tasks, skills, roles, and responsibilities required of positions? How will the job requirements change in the next few years? What does this mean with regard to hiring decisions?
The traditional approaches to selecting and developing people were once grounded in a known range of skill sets and predictable performance. Today there are important new competencies and work orientation factors emerging. The success of the new enterprise is dependent upon, for instance, operating accurately and independently with speed, utilizing flexible thinking, and handling change with resilience and energy. In Tom Peter’s new book In Search of Wow, he discusses the need companies have for people with experiences outside the norm, whose rÈsumÈs do not resemble the standard career development path, but who can contribute in ways that are new and innovative.
The CEO of Wilson Learning captured the attention of CEOs and senior-level executives when in a presentation on reengineering, he posed the question, “So after downsizing, reorganizing, and rightsizing, how many glass breakers do you have left in your company?” He was referring to those bright, creative, innovative people who are hard to manage. They are the questioners, the outsiders, the troublemakers, and they are usually the first to be laid off. They are also the people with new ideas and new approaches, who think in ways unlike anyone else and who can change an entire industry. How do organizations (inclined as they are toward stability and conformity) set consistent, fair performance standards for all employees and at the same time make room for unique, imaginative people and their ingenious ideas?
THE COST OF NOT USING ASSESSMENT TECHNOLOGY
Why do companies need state-of-the-art assessment technology? What issues arise that keep them from utilizing valid, effective methods to hire, promote, and develop a workforce that can meet the competitive challenges they face? Underlying the formidable business challenges discussed so far is the need to hire, as well as retain and develop, the right people, with the right skills, at the right time. Why have so many organizations not used the state-of-the-art assessment technology available today? Senior management and those responsible for hiring and development decisions often believe that the best of these technologies are too expensive, take too long to render results, and are unnecessarily cumbersome and labor intensive.
COST, TIME, AND LABOR
Cost is relative. The cost of assessment technology is not expensive when compared to the cost of bad decisions, poor skill performance, and employees not operating in alignment with the company’s strategy. Speed can be achieved through advanced technology including, for example, on-site assessment. The issue of labor intensiveness only arises when time is wasted, and there is no payoff for whatever time is invested.
It is important today to explore the latest assessment and measurement tools and to consider the cost of the mistakes that can result from not using the technology. Take, for example, the case of a specialized publishing company that after years of hiring and developing salespeople, set out to examine the cost of a bad hiring decision in their sales division. They were shocked to discover that including salary, benefits, training, and severance, the cost of hiring and developing the wrong salesperson, over an 18 month period (the time it took for their salespeople to become productive or not), was nearly $250,000.
In another case involving a large engineering company, the firm brought a new, entry-level employee on board. Everyone involved in the hiring decision felt the candidate was perfect for the company. Unfortunately, one applicant for that position claimed the hiring process was unfair and inconsistent. Further, he claimed the testing for the position, while exact and demanding, was irrelevant to the real requirements of the job. The lawsuit was settled out of court, at a high cost to the firm in both dollars and bad publicity. In light of these companies’ experiences, reliance on industrial age approaches in the information age is neither a good business nor a sound financial decision.
Today, speed is essential. Frequently, companies decide against using the most modern assessment approaches because of the time involved. But new levels of speed have been achieved, and it is speed beyond just compressing the traditional assessment process. The speed comes through the use of computers doing what computers do best (compiling data, merging files, running numbers, etc.), allowing the people in the assessment process to devote their time to doing what people do best–observe, make judgments, and provide detailed feedback.
Assessment technology can provide the tools to accurately and powerfully translate corporate strategy into action.
In addition, new technology in the assessment process can pinpoint the correct training and development interventions given various assessment results. It can provide the solid data-based foundation for the redesign of new jobs. It can match skills to jobs and people to positions in ways that eliminate long and confusing learning curves that may or may not produce results. The truth is, companies no longer have time for guesswork, gut-level hunches, and “informed” subjective approaches to the hiring and developing of their people.
The issue commonly is raised that even the best and most modern assessment technology is labor intensive. There is, of course, a balance between involvement and value achieved. If the involvement of management is high, there must be a corresponding result of high quality, high accuracy, and high value to make the effort worthwhile. This must be built into any selection or measurement process. Even with the advancements that have come along in the assessment world given the new computer-assisted approaches, high quality, high accuracy, and high value do not come without an organization’s commitment and effort.
TRANSFORMATION THROUGH ASSESSMENT TECHNOLOGY–CASE STUDIES
How does today’s assessment technology offer tangible solutions to the business issues of reengineering, changing values and culture, and identification of core competencies of today’s employees?