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Saturday, 16 February 2013 00:00

You've Downsized Your Workforce. How the Heck Will the Work Get Done?

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(...and how do you prevent an employee mutiny?)

It's a tough economy, and you've had to make some tough decisions about downsizing.  The process has been stressful for everyone, and now senior management is hoping they'll see real results reflected on the bottom line - and soon.

But what about all the employees left standing?  They know it's been a difficult few years, and they know that you had to make some difficult choices.  But they also know that their work environment has changed - and that they're probably going to have to do more work wtih fewer resources.

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(Your workplace, or Mutiny on the Bounty?)

After a downsizing, it's not unusual for an organization to experience low morale, high stress levels, and some general digruntlement among workers.  They're struggling to handle an increased workoload, but the recent changes have them worried about their future - and that can be a productivity-sapping combination.

It's easy for employers to dismiss these concerns, with a "They should be thankful they still have a job" attitude and a "Stop complaining and get back to work" approach.  This is a mistake.

The people who survived the downsizing are very likely your top performers - that's why you kept them.  When you engage and support them through a difficult transitional period, you'll not only keep them from looking for new opportunities elsewhere, but you'll also encourage them to work more productively, which will get you the healthier bottom line you're looking for.

You want these layoff survivors to take on new responsibilities and a faster, more efficient pace of work.  Giving them the resources to do that is critical to the ongoing success of each department and, ultimately, the organization.  Help the workers left behind by guiding them through a process to streamline their current workload.  Getting rid of excess, non-productive work is a win-win:  It focuses your team on doing only what delivers the best ROI, and it helps prevent burnout.

Practical strategies for making the workload fit the work - and the workers:

Identify key business imperatives: You already did a cost and efficiency audit as part of your downsizing process.  Go back to this data and identify 5-7 key business imperatives for your company.

Align tasks with key imperatives:  Challenge your team to streamline their work, focusing only on what supports the established business imperatives. Engage stakeholders and solicit input - you might be surprised at how enthusiastic your people are to implement change that will drive demonstrable results more efficiently.

Provide support:  Ensure all your internal business partners know the situation and provide alternatives for getting necessary work done by the established deadlines (such as funding temp resources, outsourcing IT or other time-consuming work, providing additional training, or creating new cross-disciplinary teams).

Institute a 24-hour time-off rule:  Inform employees that no work will be done and no emails will be sent from midnight Friday to midnight Saturday.  This gives overworked employees 'official permission' to take some downtime to recharge and reenergize.  (If you need 24/7 coverage, institute a rotating on-call system so everyone gets some officially sanctioned time off.)

Be the best example:  As the boss, your employees and peers are looking to you to set an example. Show them with your actions, attitude and demeanor that a leaner workforce doesn't mean a burned-out, overworked, depressed workforce. Demonstrate a balance between your work and personal life, and your employees will feel more comfortable doing the same - and they'll appreciate you for it. Setting a good example can, by itself, raise morale and productivity, which is a win-win for everyone.

Helping employees to streamline their workload - and feel more positive about their changed situation - not only results in improved productivity but will also give your business the edge it needs to survive in the new economy.  A valued, engaged and energized workforce will give 120% to their work - which is key to positioning the organization for long-term success.

Read 2924 times Last modified on Tuesday, 19 February 2013 03:56

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Beth Banks Cohn, PhD, founder and president of ADRA Change Architects, is dedicated to helping you and your organization reach your full business potential…
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