I have a question for business leaders. If things were to go wrong and your business hit hard times, would your employees take care of you? Would they sacrifice to save your business? If not, why not?
So many business leaders are willing to sacrifice their people when things get tough but would feel disrespected if their employees headed out the door when they needed them to work extra or take a temporary pay cut to help make ends meet. Why is that? Why the double standard? How can leaders treat people like some piece of inventory that is only a line on the P&L when it suits them but expect employees to make all kinds of sacrifices when they need them to?
I know people are costly and I know cutting them is the easiest and quickest way to put money back in the coffers when things look a little bleak. I mean, it is a lot tougher to get rid of inventory in a down economy and you can’t exactly shut off some machines and sell them off tomorrow but you can tell Joe and Sue that they’re laid off and voila, there’s a quick and easy bunch of money that you’re not spending. I get that, but what about some of the costs you may be missing?
How much will it cost when things turn around and you need people again? What’s the cost of hiring? What’s the cost of training? How long will it take to get people up to speed? And this doesn’t even take into account the fact that the word on the street is that you lay people off when things get tight so who wants to work for you? Do you think the best, brightest, and most talented want to take the risk for you or are they out looking for an employer who is as loyal to employees as they expect employees to be loyal to them?
And what about your culture? All those people who didn’t get let go, do they still trust you? When any rumors come up that anything might be shaky, are those folks going to immediately start looking for another ship to ride on? And what is the performance of those who stayed? Do people work at their best under fear or in safety? Your fear-filled, downsize-on-a-whim culture will not, repeat, will not drive great performance, in fact, research says that people who are afraid are subject to clouded judgement, poor decision making, and erratic behavior. Is that what you want in employees? Is that what you want your customers to experience?
All in all, why not treat your people like family? I mean they kind of are your family aren’t they? You are with them as much or more than your family. They help you build and run your dream. Aren’t they worth something to you? And if they are worth something, how can you so easily turn on them like they don’t matter? Would you do that to your son or daughter? “Son, we’re having some financial difficulties around here. So in order that we can continue making payments on the car, you’re going to have to move out and make it on your own. Good luck.” Yet, businesses do this every day. “Folks, we lost the Smith Industries contract so a bunch of you are going to be let go. Sorry.” And away walks the CEO still making their tidy packet while several families now may lose everything. This is not moral, ethical, or the way it should be.
How can we change business to take care of the people who make it all work (read: employees and customers)? What needs to change? How do we make people more important than dollars and cents? Is it an eternal question? I hope not.
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