Self-appointed recession guru
Do I dare call myself a recession guru? Why not? I spent most of life working in a regional centre given to trouble and strife! If we weren’t rapidly readjusting to major political turmoil, we were adjusting to the effects of drought on agriculture which was our primary economy. In a good year, the economy expanded 3%. When the rains didn’t come, we went back 3%.
- We got very good at scenario planning and not over-reacting. We were brought up on the phrase: anyone can make money when the markets are going up. A business person plans for the up and the down.
- We stopped blaming people. If weather is the problem, then plan for it!
- We learned about the economy. As an HR consultant, my business wasn’t hit in the year the economy went down. It would feel the pain 2-3 cycles later. Simply, psychologists don’t work with farmers very much. We work with people who supply the farmers and people who supply the suppliers. It takes a little time for the effects to work through the levels.
- We learned what the numbers meant. For the record, a downturn of 7% will have accountants hyperventilating. Quite often their firms are technically bankrupt and they should cease trading – but if every one is in the same boat, you breath fast and trade through! Equally I can tell you with confidence that you can survive 100% inflation quite well. At 300% expect people to get seriously ill. Relax. We aren’t there yet!
- And above all we learned to focus. We learned to sack customers who didn’t pay on time! It is disconcerting to shrink your revenue, grow your profit and play more golf. But that is how it works!
BNET published a good article today on time management. The centre piece of the article is the busy, busy person who is racing around being busy being busy.
Since I have come to live in the UK, I have been stunned by poor time management. I am amazed by someone who delegates his time management to a subordinate (usually blokes delegating to gals?). Beyond a junior levels of management, our tasks aren’t serial, they are interrelated.
Let me give you an example: I email you asking to discuss something. You email back to say yes and speak to your secretary. I write to her (usually). She consults you (or doesn’t). She writes back with some questions about time. I write back. She confirms.
7 emails to do something you had the power to do in your first reply. When I confirmed, that would be 3 emails.
The pre-email rule is that any piece of paper should come across your desk once and once only. You should have been sufficiently clear about your priorities to make a decision whether or not the meeting with me was important to you and how our meeting would move your major project forward.
All else is dross.
HR and the recession
As HR practitioners, we have a major role in a recession:
- Make sure we are calm ourselves. Get the HR team taking exercise, working reasonable hours and secure about their own prospects.
- Back up the people like accountants who are on the front line. Spend time with them to make sure they are taking exercise, working reasonable hours and calm about their own prospects!
- Get the conversations about the economy and the company humming. Make sure managers understand the economy and talk to staff (I’ve heard of Royal Bank of Scotland managers unable to discuss credit derivatives with their staff – don’t be like that please!). Resource the conversation and support it with social media.
- Make sure people understand what factors the business must focus on to succeed and keep them focused!
Above all of course, we should be focused.
Can we answer this question ourselves? How many people in the organization could state the No 1 priority for
- the organization
- their unit
- their boss
- each of their colleagues
- their subordinates
Remember, any one can do business in good times. It is the bad times that test our credentials.