It’s not unusual to see spikes in layoffs around the holiday season and during the summer time. More often than not, this is due to organizations having either in a January to December or July to June fiscal year. Naturally, this is the busy season for our career transition practices, where we get the privilege and honor of supporting workers as they look for new opportunities.
But I often wonder – how many of these layoffs could have been avoided or positions saved? Employee engagement is one of the biggest issues in organizations today and one can’t help but wonder if having more engaged employees could have prevented some of the layoffs.
This is not to say that the responsibility falls alone, or even primarily, on the employees. I would contend that executives and management should look at this issue with a more proactive and methodological approach. After all, management is tasked with leading organizations and what could be more important than leading by driving employee performance that achieves businessresults.
We all know that times are tough in some industries and geographical areas. We also know that there are internal and external factors unique to certain organizations that can affect their performance, beyond their people. However, the human factor is one that can always be improved. Just remember, the best way to improve people performance is to improve our leadership skills.
I’ve had two very different meetings over the past 10 days where the conversations hovered around retention, engagement, compensation and performance. One organization explained that, although they hire good people, their top performers are hired away by the competition once the employees are developed to a certain level. They explained that their compensation was not competitive; thinking that pay was the driver for talent erosion. The other meeting was with a company that is both performing well and successfully retaining their talent, though their compensation is nowhere near the top in their industry. They explained – “We have great leadership and our culture is amazing.”
While one can never generalize on things like these (and yes, we can always find a story to fit our perspective), we can also agree that there are some key takeaways from these two situations:
- First, culture and leadership matter. People abandon their leaders; not only by leaving the company but by showing up at work every day, being disengaged and letting the company underperform one hour at a time.
- Second, compensation is important, but leadership and culture trumps compensation in most situations.
So I challenge you now, before embarking upon the route of layoffs, to ask yourself and your fellow leaders – what can we do to drive employee performance and how can I better lead to increase employee engagement? I’d love to hear what you and your leaders are doing!