Archive for October, 2012

The Super Employee Evolution – Part 3

October 18, 2012 1 comment

the tired employee

Without proper management, the employee has more chance to feel alone and under-appreciated.

(continued from The Super Employee Evolution – Part 2)

Bob had had enough.  Overworked, over-stressed and feeling under-appreciated, he asked his boss for a raise.  He was denied.  Citing a poor economy and everyone having to tighten their belts for a while, he was told that perhaps in the future there would be more funding for pay raises but not right now.  He was told how valuable he was to the team and that his efforts had not gone unnoticed.  He was appreciated.

Management began to see glimpses of the danger they were in and began to search for a replacement for Bob….just in case.  There were many applicants and eager personnel eager to take on the job at hand.  Unfortunately, for Management, however, no one was able to take over the existing system as Bob had personalized it.  All his macros and short cuts to make the system efficient and workable for him were indecipherable for anyone else and no one would be able to come in and take over smoothly.  In fact, Management was shocked to discover they would have to hire 2, 3 or maybe even 4 people just to maintain the status quo.

Meanwhile, after working hard to make up for being short-staffed for three years, Bob was no longer satisfied with Management’s response.  Management was in denial and falsely believed Bob didn’t have any place to go.  However, while the job market was not the lush and fertile field of 2005, it also wasn’t the bleak and barren landscape of 2009 any more.  Companies had begun to hire again, albeit very selectively, and Bob was the ideal candidate for the new market; he could multitask, had middle management experience and was never laid off.

Bob received a very generous offer and tendered his two-week notice at work.  To say Management was surprised is a massive understatement.  Suddenly, they realized their mistake.  They had put all their eggs in a basket named “Bob” and for the first time became fully aware of their folly.  If they didn’t keep Bob on staff, there wouldn’t be anyone left to run the IT department and the firm would come to a grinding halt.  They had an emergency meeting and put a counter offer on the table and presented it to Bob.  Finally in a position of power, Bob agreed to stay but with a much higher salary increase.  Bob had basically asked for more than twice his original salary and an extra week of vacation.

Management had no option but to acquiesce.  They were appalled at the position they found themselves in but saw no alternative.  Bob, on the other hand, was finally happy…still over-worked but for double the money, he no longer dreaded getting up in the morning.

Management began to take a look around the company to see just how vulnerable they were in other departments.  Initially, keeping the teams under-staffed was a good thing because it was more cost-effective and added to the bottom line.  However, they now saw the danger in keeping this as a permanent solution.  Fewer employees were actually expendable than Management had believed and the false power Management had over them was now transparent.  The only solution, much to Management’s chagrin, was to hire and add staffing to key areas within the company to prevent another “Bob” situation from surfacing.

Properly challenging and compensating the employee makes for a happy employee.

Is this the only reason why employment is slowly and steadily rising?  No.  Obviously, there are other factors in place.  There is more faith in the banking system again just as banks have more faith in borrowers now than they did four years ago.  Notoriously foolish practices such as approving mortgages for people who did not have the resources to pay them back have been curtailed just as people are no longer borrowing above their means.  Plus, there are other factors affecting the economy and how companies hired/fired over the past five years that I will not get into here.  Suffice to say, The Super Employee Evolution is one of the unique results of the process.  It didn’t happen for every company, but it did manifest itself enough that the topic came up often in my conversations with recruiters, HR departments and the candidates, themselves.  Additionally, it wasn’t just in IT.  The S.E.E. also grew in Sales, Marketing, HR and any other group that required one person to maintain the day-to-day operations of the department over an extended period.

What’s the lesson learned?  For companies, a short-term reduction in force may be fiscally responsible but the long-term effect of keeping a skeletal staff is not worth the risk.  As for employees, the take away is to continue learning and self-education to ensure survival within the company and in the chosen field.

(continued from The Super Employee Evolution – Part 2)


The Super Employee Evolution – Part 2

October 10, 2012 5 comments

(continued from The Super Employee Evolution Part 1)

Fewer employees means more work for the staff.

Bob was having difficulty keeping up with the tasks he had been recently assigned.  While he was familiar with everything required, Bob was far from being an expert in anything and as a result he had to improvise.  Management had seen fit to give him a new set of responsibilities based upon the fact everything was considered “technology”.  Unfortunately, the truth was far from perception.  Database management is a very different world from network administration.  Being a webmaster doesn’t relate to planning budgets for each aspect of the departments and everyone looks down on the hardware technicians.

In order to survive, Bob began to create shortcuts wherever and whenever he could.  He sorted out the required daily tasks and those that had to be performed on a regular basis whether cyclical or periodic.  He began to create a calendar based upon these needs and in a sense he had to triage the tasks that didn’t have to be looked at every day.   Those, he had concluded, would be addressed if, and only if, there was ever a problem with them.

Management’s relationship with Bob was standoff-ish.  It had to be.  No one left in the company knew enough to question Bob and they had to assume and maintain a position of authority.  They couldn’t, under any circumstances, show that they didn’t know what was going on.  The only contact Bob had with management was when they casually asked him how things were going.  “Fine.” he would always reply.  When there was a problem, there would be a group of people gazing into the “fishbowl” Bob felt he was working in until the issue was resolved.

Business continued in this fashion.  Layoffs eventually eased off and Bob never received any additional help.  Corporate was not happy with the economy but it could have been worse, as was evident by just looking around at the multitude of firms that had shut down.  Business remained stale and Bob continued to survive.

One year later found our friend, Bob, growing tired.  The daily fires needed to be put out were beginning to overwhelm him and he once again asked for some help from management.  He needed to expand the IT team once more and bring some much-needed expertise back in.

Management was not ready to comply.  Businesses had learned the same work was accomplished as before only now they were able to do it with fewer employees.  The lower overhead made owners and shareholders very happy as it made the company more profitable.  What neither Bob nor Management had considered, though, was the unhealthy relationship that had been maturing between them.  Bob needed his job and no matter how difficult it became, he wasn’t going to do anything to jeopardize his position.  Jobs were still scarce and he was scared into submission.  What neither of them realized was just how desperately Management needed Bob.  They were both about to find out.

Stay tuned for the 3rd and final part later this week.

(continued on to the The Super Employee Evolution – Part 3)

The Super Employee Evolution – Part 1

October 3, 2012 1 comment

many hats

Employees were demanded to fill many roles.

Companies and employees find themselves in a strange new world of staffing these days.  It’s fair to say no one could have predicted 5 years ago what the hiring landscape would have looked like today.

When companies began laying people off and reducing their staffs numbers, it seemed like the right thing to do.  Revenues had begun to decline and there were ominous signs the economy did not have as solid base as it had seemed.  Production for goods began to decline and inventories from warehouses dwindled.  Suddenly, there were too many people employed to complete less work orders so reduction in forces were inevitable.  Overhead costs went down dramatically and firms’ bottom  everyone not caught in the reduction in forces was forced to pick up the slack for those no longer there.

Businesses were still under the assumption that the economy would return to normal in short order so the easiest way to preserve their methods was to eliminate positions and refill them once they were ready to hire again.  Normally, this is the expected process and in most economic dips no one would have faulted the firms for their actions.  However, 2008 proved extremely unpredictable and employees paid a heavy price for it.

In 2008, just 20 companies laid off over 400,000 employees alone.  In July of that year, the unemployment rate went from a hovering 5.0-5.5% to an alarmingly fast climb that peaked at 10% in October of 2009.  Even now, 34 months since the peak, it is still 2.5 points higher than where it was when the crisis began.

This changed the approach companies had in regards to hiring employees back.  No longer were firms under the illusion this was a recession that had an end date within sight.  Further layoffs were required as companies began to see the current economy as a time to hibernate.  Once flourishing firms now felt the need to operate with the most skeletal staffs possible.  No company wanted to get caught with a full roster and have to explain to investors why they hadn’t cut the force down to save money.  As a result, workers that had been fortunate enough to still have a job were asked once again to do even more than ever to compensate for the depleted departments.

As far as the remaining employees were concerned, they were happy to have jobs and to ensure that they remained employed, purposefully kept a low profile at work.  If they were required to come in earlier, work later and sacrifice weekends, well…they would.  After all, everyone knew multiple people who had been affected by the recession and they could see what life was like for those without work and insurance.  The economy and management forced the remaining employees to adapted and adapt they did.  Workers learned to do all the tasks required to keep the companies running.

Let’s take “Bob”, for example.  Bob was in IT and in charge of database administration for his company.  After the first layoff, he was also tasked with ensuring the firm’s desktops were humming along.  If anything went down with a desktop, Bob fixed it.  Need a new monitor?  Bob’s your man.

During Bob’s tenure at the company, he had also picked up some basic network administration and was able to fill in for people if they were out of the office for whatever reason.  During the layoffs, Bob’s network experience was discovered and he was asked if he wouldn’t mind taking a few courses, (paid for by the company), to ensure they had enough people to take care of the systems.  Of course, he agreed, (IT people love certifications), and within a year, Bob found himself in charge of hardware, database and network administration for the company.

An interesting word began to enter Bob’s vocabulary…customization.  Bob realized customization was the only way he and the company he worked for would survive.

(Continue to The Super Employee Evolution – Part 2)