When people live in fear of losing employment, work quality can fall, and your firm can lose clients. How best to deal with this offshoot of the business and readiness plans we develop?
“The fear is real,” says Donna Gaines, founder and managing partner of Gaines International/Allen Austin, a search firm for the design and building industries. “especially now, during this pandemic.
EVEN EMPLOYED AFRAID
Employees are afraid of losing their jobs, she explains. "We are receiving many more calls from active job seekers than we did a few months ago," Gaines says, "even from top performers."
However, A/EC/ firms can reduce fear by having a plan of action during volatile times. Gaines suggest 10 ways to help employees fight the fear:
1. Make staff part of the process. According to Gaines, if you want loyalty from your employees, offer the same to them.
2. Be honest. Gather people and teams together and tell them where the firm stands. "Worst-case scenarios are the first to manifest, whether true or not. Be transparent about the financial situation," Gaines says. "Show the firm where you were two months ago and where you are now."
3. Focus on your company's strengths and resources. "There are always opportunities to be had," Gaines says. "Encourage staff to identify new revenue-producing markets, which can increase both motivation and cash flow."
Gaines offers the example of one client who is now transforming stadiums and convention centers into hospitals and care centers, while another has recently decided to diversify into design-build delivery.
4. Cross-train through job sharing. Build team skills to increase marketability. "If one person does schematics and another does CDs, set them up to learn each other's jobs," she says.
"Make it a collaborative effort to create better camaraderie."
5. Offer in-house training and coaching. Gaines says some recruitment and HR Consulting firms are currently offering stress-management and conflict resolution at no cost.
6. Reduce expenses. Brainstorm how to tighten expenditures. "Get team buy-in," Gaines says. "Tell everyone you must cut costs.
Ask what they can suggest. One of our clients instituted a 20 percent reduction in salaries and reduced the workweek to protect everyone's positions better."
7. Encourage personal care. Allow a few "free" hours each week for employees to do personal things and self-care.
"The extra time is the payoff," she says. "If you feel better during a stressful period, you perform better."
8. Don't stop talent acquisition programs. "This is a net/net situation," says Gaines. "If you stop your talent acquisition program for 60 days, it will take 60 to 90 days to ramp up."
9. Update programs and databases. Update position descriptions, rewrite manuals, or clean up talent acquisition software applications and databases.
10. Be strategic about industry messaging. Use your PR firm’s or communication team’s expertise to convey positive messaging. "
Tamara Jensen from Taenke Marketing, with whom I work, also suggests adopting a new attitude toward social media and PR," says Gaines. "Leveraging your network and staying socially connected is tantamount while we are physically distant."
PSMJ's A/E Strategic Planning Study is available for purchase or as a free download to PSMJ members.