Executives were so busy slashing costs and meticulously revising the business plan to survive the debilitating recession, many of them overlooked the need to create a complementary talent management strategy.

Now their efforts to capitalize on the long-awaited economic rebound could be thwarted by employee defections and talent shortfalls, unless executives take immediate steps to align the disparate strategies.

“When employers institute furloughs and pay freezes and shift benefits costs onto employees it empties their emotional buckets,” says Rob Rogers, a Principal with Findley Davies, Inc. “The impact of reductions in rewards and talent management often goes undetected, until the damage is done.”

Smart Business spoke with Rogers about the process of realigning talent management with the business plan, before the window of economic opportunity closes.

Why should executives revise the current talent management strategy?

Now that the labor market is improving, top performers and workers with critical skills will be reviewing their recessionary experience and making stay or go decisions. They’ll consider whether they were treated fairly or if the company’s revised rewards continue to justify their energy, loyalty and trust. If the emotional damage is too great or the total rewards are too small, employees who possess critical skills or key institutional knowledge may be vulnerable to overtures from competitors. And since talent management refers to the holistic process of selecting, developing and rewarding human capital, it’s highly possible that many retained employees lack the necessary skills or knowledge to achieve the revised business plan or thrive in an increasingly demanding environment. To solve these challenges, employers must revitalize training and development programs and recalibrate total rewards to make sure the company’s talent management strategy complements the current business plan.

How can employers achieve emotional and intellectual realignment?

Assess the ability, willingness and motivation of your work force to thrive in the new economy by taking a series of pulse surveys to assess these critical areas:

  • Intellectual readiness. Do employees possess the appropriate skills and competencies to help the company compete and meet evolving customer demands for new products and services? Can they help the company do more with less?
  • Emotional readiness. Do employees understand the new business model and revised expectations? Have they embraced the need to sustain recessionary cost reductions and lower operating expenses? Are they engaged and ready to meet new challenges?
  • Employee value proposition (EVP) effectiveness. Does the current EVP match employee preferences? Does the compensation program reward and motivate employees to achieve the revised business goals? Will the company maximize the ROI for rewards expenditures under the current structure?

How can employers close the gaps?

While it’s traditional to address proficiency shortfalls through employee training, mentoring and other educational programs, increased accountability is the only way to incite and sustain permanent change. Reformat the existing performance management system and employee goal-setting process to include the attainment of new skills and competencies. There is a tremendous opportunity for technology solutions to assist in this process. Don’t overlook the role of line managers in facilitating the change management process. Require supervisors to model new behaviors and actively support the evolutionary process. Although executives often hesitate to increase investments in training and development in an uncertain economy, the challenging environment provides an ideal opportunity to retool your work force. Research shows that employees consider opportunities for professional development to be an important component of EVP.

How can employers motivate employees by aligning rewards with business outcomes?

Since employees consider monetary and non-monetary rewards when assessing the return for their contributions, create a complete inventory of rewards and gauge their effectiveness by mapping each component to the goals in the business plan. This will not only expose gaps and troublesome misalignment but also allow employers to ascertain whether the rewards are capable of inciting goal-oriented behaviors and activities. For example, employers may want to offer bonuses for improving customer service or reducing R&D costs if these goals are critical to achieving vital business outcomes. Be sure to involve employees in the rewards discussion, because our research shows that employees are capable of making prudent choices when they are armed with the facts and employers are often surprised to find that low-cost benefits like flexible schedules or telecommuting do a better job of motivating and retaining employees than higher-cost perks.

How can executives support realignment?

Closing gaps and bolstering engagement requires an inclusive and holistic communications program that starts at the top of the organization. Executives must provide a road map so employees can align their efforts with the company’s goals. The leadership must clearly articulate the new expectations and the need for fresh behaviors, so employees don’t revert to old habits as the economy improves. Finally, be on the lookout for change, so you can recognize new habits and refill employees’ emotional buckets. Remember, a misaligned talent management strategy can be temporarily camouflaged by a rebounding economy and, by the time it surfaces, it’s often too late to prevent the departure of valuable resources.

Rob Rogers is a Principal with Findley Davies, Inc. Reach him at rrogers@findleydavies.com or (216) 875-1900.

Published in Akron/Canton

More and more, business leaders are accepting the research that links poor health behaviors and poor decision-making to excess health care costs and suboptimal productivity. The Center for Disease Control reports that health care for people with chronic diseases accounts for 75 percent of the nation’s total health care costs.

Chronic conditions, such as high blood pressure, diabetes and high cholesterol, are mainly caused by tobacco use; lack of exercise and movement; poor food choices; and inability to manage stress. These conditions can be prevented, but it helps to have a supportive environment.

“When you consider that people spend between eight to 12 hours a day at work, the workplace really provides a golden opportunity to change lives for the better, which ultimately benefits the organization,” says Nancy Pokorny, a managing consultant specializing in wellness at Findley Davies, Inc. “It’s about building a culture of health.”

Smart Business spoke with Pokorny about why wellness programs are a vital part of today’s business culture.

What mistakes do employers make when implementing wellness programs?

Often, organizations try, through activities, to motivate individual employees to be healthier. They might bring weight management programs on-site, or create walking programs and competitions. But many organizations fail to recognize the impact the work environment is having on behaviors.

If you want your wellness program to be taken seriously, you can’t hold health screenings at one end of the building and ‘donut day’ at the other end. These seemingly harmless actions undermine the credibility of a wellness program. In fact, I actually dislike using the word ‘program.’ Wellness is not a series of programs; it’s a permanent commitment to organizational and individual behavior change.

What is consistent among the wellness efforts you would deem the most successful?

There is a definite pathway to creating a culture of wellness at work. That pathway resembles a basic change management model.

First, you need executive level and middle-management buy-in. Your leaders must set an example by modeling the behavior they want to see in the work force.

Second, any barriers for change need to be removed, and new approaches should be implemented. If the company subsidizes the on-site cafeteria, consider subsidizing the healthier food choices far more than the less-healthy choices. You eliminate the barrier of healthy food being more expensive than unhealthy food.

Third, create a process that enables change to live on beyond implementation. Culture change is more powerful, less expensive and more important than having a variety of programs. Once you change a culture, it’s forever, whereas wellness programs are likely to be dismantled if there is a budget cut.

What can companies do to create that culture of health?

Certainly the organization walking the walk will help. Also, removing the toxins from the environment is critical for success. A truly ‘well’ organization is one where healthy living becomes part of the fabric of the organization. It’s who you become as a company. The organization is accountable for creating the culture, and the employees eventually are accountable for their own health.

So, how do you remove the toxins from the environment? Obviously creating a tobacco-free workplace is high on the list, but companies aren’t sure how far to take it. Creating a tobacco-free campus means tobacco may not be used on company property, period. In addition to addressing health concerns and the significant additional cost associated with tobacco use, employers should consider the image they want to convey to their customers.

Are there ‘out of the box’ wellness initiatives that organizations can tap into?

Most of the out of the box programs will at some point be put back into the box after companies have experienced a lot of pain and effort implementing them. What works for one organization will likely not work for another. A company that operates 24/7 has different needs than one that operates from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. A business with multiple locations needs different solutions than one with a single location. Some businesses are comprised solely of employees who work in the field versus being in the office. Some companies may have an average employee age of 50; others 30. An out of the box wellness program does not address those differences.

What can be done to find something that works for your company?

You have to leverage the strengths of the organization. If a company has a can-do attitude and lot of camaraderie in its work force, those characteristics should be leveraged through the buddy system, a support system, or by creating goals to help build a culture of health. If a company is highly technical, it’s about finding the appropriate utilization of technology, whether through social networks or by using other technologies to communicate.

It really is easier and less expensive to build on your strengths than to target your deficiencies. You’ll end up in the right place and will feel good doing it, rather than focusing on what’s wrong and what’s not working.

Are there organizations in Ohio that are creating true culture change?

Yes, there are several, but this example shows exemplary commitment from the top. Last year, Medical Mutual CEO Rick Chiricosta made a very public announcement about his desire to lose weight, and he blogged about his experience so his employees were able to share in his struggles as well as his progress. That is a great example of a CEO who is committed to wellness, thinks it’s important, and leads by walking the walk.

Nancy Pokorny is a managing consultant specializing in wellness at Findley Davies, Inc. Reach her at (216) 875-1939 or NPokorny@findleydavies.com.

Published in Akron/Canton
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