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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)