|By John Ryan||
|October 14, 2009 10:15 AM EDT||
When I started my high technology career in 1982, we had an unemployment rate of 10%. Doesn’t this sound familiar? It was a brave new time in computing and no one was even sure where it was all going. Doesn’t this also sound familiar? I probably didn’t realize it at the time since I was happy to get a paycheck and I was young, but relatively speaking, it was a tough market for employees. I was consistently working intense 60-hour weeks, my guess is that sounds all too familiar for many of today's professional workers. 60-hour weeks are never the problem when the team is outstanding and the mission is solid. I think the difference is during high unemployment periods, an employee feels a loss of control over their work time. A sense of obligation and less sincere dedication. It's that loss of control that can be the seed of a future exit.
Fast forward to periods of higher employment in the last 25 years and we witnessed companies scrambling to get any talent, even if it wasn’t always the best talent. Times change. Now we’re in 2009 and we’re back to double-digit unemployment. The general view is that many companies are doing more with less people. That might work for a few months, but companies need a plan to hold on to its best people and demonstrate appreciation on a consistent basis. Over two decades now, I’ve worked with and had the honor of managing some great people. Great employees make great companies. They also can teach executives to be better managers. Take those two points to the bank.
But what happens when executives and managers redline employees on a constant basis? For those of us familiar with the tachometer in cars, we know that when we redline a car, we are running the engine at unsafe levels where engine components can start to break down. The same thing can happen to employees, even the best ones. The ones managers should be immediately concerned with are the employees that all other employees go to for everything and seem to take for granted.
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What happens when the economy starts to gain traction again? A great employee will inevitably be contacted by an employer who is already thinking ahead and is offering long term compensation (equity) and short term compensation (salary/bonus/vacation/benefits)? What happens when the current employer didn’t show enough appreciation? When a manager redlines their best employees on a constant basis, it’s just a matter of a cycled economic recovery before the best employees are gone. Times change.
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