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Oct
16 2011

Job Security, The Trickiest HR Requirement

Syndicated from: balance-AND-results

Like most aspects of HR and leadership, job security involves paradoxes. It’s rarely discussed as an essential for positive engagement especially today when so many companies have had to lay people off. It’s an elephant in almost every room. An effective leadership team has to come to terms with how to handle it. Promising iron-clad job security for life is clearly not what’s required or advisable for good employee relations. There will always be exceptions – an odd specialty department that’s no longer needed or, in the minds of some employees, even if you fire someone for cause or poor performance, the perception can be that you violated your promise. A real danger of making any formal commitment to security is the possibility it will create an entitlement mind-set in at least some areas of the company. It can be tricky to find a balance. At Hbc, where turbulence and regular layoffs for ‘re-organization’ were commonplace, I was shocked to hear a senior director in one function suddenly accuse the CEO of being unconscionable for laying of half a dozen in the director’s division while he’d said nothing throughout much larger layoffs elsewhere in the company. Apparently it was OK everywhere else, but ‘not in my backyard.’ Some companies are fortunate never to have had to do any significant layoffs. RIM fit in that category until recently and earlier this year achieved #1 spot on a survey of “most attractive companies to work for” by Randstad Canada who collected 7000 opinions. Almost certainly that result was in before the layoffs. It will be interesting to see what happens in future years, since job security had to have been a pretty firm expectation of anyone signing on with them before recent events. People make assumptions. That’s in fact how job security is mostly evaluated in North America and helps explain the very high ratings obtained routinely by companies like P&G and even governments (during recessions). Of course it doesn’t earn such ratings by itself, but is a key ingredient. Engagement requires employees to be satisfied with a number of factors, but disengagement can often result from a poor record in just one and that includes job security. But it’s a relative concept thankfully. Most people understand nothing is or can be 100% guaranteed. They make their analysis based on track record mostly and on the messages given out by employees of the firm – so employee culture, perceptions and what they tell others is likewise very important and can be managed in this respect through honesty and clarity as with so many other elements. People judge which companies are most likely to provide security largely by track record, often the recent record, though big splashes that got lots of publicity hang around a long time. The key is don’t foolishly promise complete job security, but rather promise and demonstrate that leadership operates prudently. Don’t over-hire in good times (since they won’t last). Try for steady growth rather than spurts of uncontrolled hiring binges. Above all encourage and support cross-training so when tough times arrive, you can shift people to needed areas from those being reduced so as to minimize outright terminations. People understand if you’ve done the best you can and treated those who absolutely cannot be placed to fair severance arrangements, job search support and more. You can afford to be a bit more generous than average if you’ve minimized the numbers you have to let go. For others, it’s a vicious downhill spiral – the more they fire, the more it costs, the more they try to shortchange departing employees and blacken their reputation for future hiring. As with all other areas of HR, trying for balance is best. and most easily explained to those who need explanations if they are to be dissuaded from bad-mouthing how they were handled. Unfortunate, but often inevitable, this area, too, fits into a strategic approach to how we lead. Bookmark and share this post More »

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