Recession Fears?  Don’t Worry – Be Happy! Start By Examining The Work Your Employees Perform Now

With the current downturn in the stock market and raging inflation, it’s tempting to worry about a recession and begin plotting how you’re going to cut staff.  Don’t fall into that trap!  Whether or not a recession actually occurs doesn’t require you to surrender your company.  There is really an opportunity here!   What?  You don’t believe me?  Well, let’s explore this further….

  1. Take A Look At How Work Actually Gets Done In Your Organization

Think of your employees as pieces on a chessboard.  Are they assigned to roles that really take full advantage of their experience and skills?  I’m sure that there are some who are misplaced – poorly aligned to the work they could be – or should be – doing.  Why is this important?  Because you might be missing out on an opportunity to make your business run more efficiently – more profitably – and you don’t need to have a recession to start thinking about this.  How?  Read ON…

  1. Focus On Roles Which Can Change Over Time – Not On Jobs That Haven’t Changed In Years

We all perform multiple roles: that of parent, son/daughter, employee, citizen, etc.  Yet, “jobs” seem to be artifacts from another era (or another planet, for that matter).  Have you noticed how job descriptions have become longer – and more complicated?  Take a look at the last job you posted on your website (or on Indeed).  I’ll bet it was too long – and few qualified people actually applied.  Some who saw your posting probably concluded that they could never meet all of those requirements or perform all the duties listed (or they thought it wasn’t worth trying to BS their way to an interview).  

Why is this important?  Because work is dynamic – it’s always changing.  Yes – certain duties may remain the same year over year, but duties don’t define the job – TALENT DOES.  Talent is the main resource that people – hopefully – bring with them to their daily work. Do your employees think about the talents they bring to their jobs?  Do their supervisors get it?  If not, don’t worry; we got your back at be the change HR. We can help!

  1. One Lesson Learned From Covid 19 – Jobs Are Already Changing!

The COVID-19 pandemic has forced all of us to think about how we design work.  And it’s not just about “working from home” or at “the office.”  That might seem like the main issue now, but it’s much more than that.  We now have to think about how the work is performed – what tasks are absolutely necessary?  How have digital tools changed the ground rules?  You may have lost some employees because their lives have changed over the last three years.  BUT….do you need to replace each position?  Maybe not.   If we think of “roles” that employees perform and less about the “jobs” they are currently assigned to, then we can think more creatively about performing necessary tasks in different ways.  You’re probably already assigning more and varied tasks to some employees – and fewer tasks to others in response to COVID. IN THAT CASE, YOU’RE ALREADY CHANGING JOBS AND CREATING NEW ROLES.

  1. Does “Gig Work” Fit Into Your Staffing Plan?

Another lesson from COVID-19 is that some work can be performed by contractors or consultants who are not employees.  These “gig-workers” may fill critical roles that don’t require the day-to-day attention of a full-time (or even part-time) employee.  There are more gig-workers today than a few years ago, so this option is really worth thinking about. But tread carefully here because you don’t want to misclassify employees/contractors.  Give be the change HR a shout; we’ll point you in the right direction.

  1. You Might Be Asking Yourself:  This Stuff Sounds Ok But Are We Complying With Legal Requirements?

There are some laws that we have to follow, but most have to do with the nature of the work performed and the level of “discretionary effort” expended.  We know about this stuff and can help you navigate the waters.  We’re your partner on this important journey.

So, how do we begin examining these issues?

Well, I hate to say this, but we have to start by asking a lot more questions! No two organizations are alike, even within the same industry.  So the path of inquiry will vary, but here are some suggestions:

  1. Let’s start a dialog with the CEO, CFO, or COO to learn more about the business operation and identify 1-3 “gateway” jobs that are considered critical to the enterprise. These may include an hourly role, an individual contributor (nonsupervisory) role, and a mid-level leadership role.  These can provide a useful sample of the critical skills, knowledge, and experience the organization depends on to run successfully.
  2. Where do we find the talent to fill these roles? Which talent pools does the company tap into? Are the best candidates employees from within the same industry? Do they have Bachelor’s or Master’s degrees in specific fields? Do they perform essentially the same job elsewhere? What are the company’s demographic preferences? Are we willing to challenge these assumptions to open up new talent pools, especially in today’s competitive market?
  3. Review current job descriptions and a sample of the performance goals associated with them. Focus on skills needed not only to perform the duties listed but, more importantly, to add tangible value to the organization.  How strong is the alignment between jobs and skills?  What room is there to develop new skills/knowledge to add greater value in the future?
  4. The terms “jobs” and “roles” are sometimes used interchangeably.  For the purpose at hand, it’s better to think of a “job” as combining several “roles”. A good example of this is a Project (or Program) Manager, a critical job in a variety of industries. It blends several distinct roles: project planning, staffing positions with the right people and skill mix, managing employee performance (directly or via matrix structure), preparing budgets/expense reports, documenting milestones achieved and managing 3rd party vendors (just to name a few!). If a Project/Program Manager resigns, and applicants don’t match the traditional skills and experience profile, do we wait and continue looking for the ideal candidate? Do we consider a candidate experienced in some of the above roles but not all? 

As noted in a 2019 research report by Mercer Consulting:

The skills gap can only be closed by hiring lifelong learners and offering constant reskilling. Gone are the days of vertical careers, fixed titles, and detailed job descriptions. The workforce is shifting from fixed job titles and detailed job descriptions to ever-revolving roles. It doesn’t matter how talented or motivated new hires fresh out of university are—nor what stellar technology training they’ve received. At the current pace of technology growth, chances are that many of these technical skills will be obsolete within a few short years.

  1. The above questions warrant our attention.  Most job descriptions focus on tasks performed (some of which are now of limited importance or completely outdated). Descriptions don’t adequately capture the various roles and the skills, experience, and talents required.  Too many job descriptions fail to align with the way work is actually performed today – and, more importantly – the way work will be performed in the next 3-5-years. The increasing use of technology (AI, metaverse/gaming, etc.), along with hybrid work/team arrangements is changing jobs now more than ever.
  2. Which jobs have been most impacted by the COVID 19 pandemic?  Be Honest!  It’s easy to tell ourselves that the last 2-3 years have been an aberration; things will get back to normal soon.  But it’s far more likely that some jobs (or, perhaps more accurately, roles) have already changed to accommodate a worldwide disruption, unlike anything we have seen in our lifetimes.  What lessons have we learned about our jobs?  Does it now seem more desirable to combine certain roles and requisite talents into a single job? Should we dissect larger jobs into distinct roles to improve hiring prospects? Is every job that currently sits on the organization chart necessary and viable?  
  3. FINALLY: Do certain jobs (or roles) still need to be performed by an employee on the company payroll?  Could some roles be performed by an independent contractor? A contractor is not an employee but, instead, an external resource who can address a current business issue or problem – and then move on.  There are far more contractors (also-called “gig workers”) today than just a few years ago, as more employees evaluate their career and lifestyle options.  Outsourcing is certainly nothing new, but the COVID-19 pandemic may be creating a greater need for gig workers and other flexible staffing arrangements in all sorts of industries.

Whew! There is a lot to think about. 

Don’t Wait For The Recession: It Might Not Happen.  Even If It Should Happen, The Best Preparation Begins Now. Re-aligning jobs to improve staffing prospects and organizational effectiveness is one place to start. 

Be the change HR is Here To Help You…



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