Managing personnel through a crisis: How to optimize your team and avoid lay-offs

The recent economic challenges have forced many employers to cut their payroll costs. The management is predictably struggling to optimize the company’s operation and boost the efficiency of each employee and process in order to achieve the highest results possible.

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Implement a system for counting statistics

The advice is as simple as it gets, yet many entrepreneurs neglected it before the crisis. Deploy CRM or ERM reporting and analytics software to track each employee’s performance and see how many items they produce, how many calls, sales, applications or other activities they perform to do their job.

There are useful services that combine various business tools and include other functionalities in addition to CRM. For instance, the Zoho office suite is very good; I use it myself.

It is possible to maintain records even in Excel if the manager is comfortable with using it. The most important thing is to be able to analyze the collected data and understand what brings good results and what doesn’t. That’s what accounts for huge potential for improving efficiency.

Work with those who bring their best

You should pay more attention to the employees who are active, interested in their work and who reach good results. Give them all your attention and others will want to keep up: nobody likes to be ignored or underestimated.

The exception is people who want to receive their monthly salary just for being in the office and who are not motivated. If their performance is poor, there is no point in keeping them in the company. To fire employees because you can’t pay them is one thing, but when they slow down the company’s growth, do not show results and demotivate others, is a different story. In this case, the best solution is to fire two or three people. This approach will work better that any other.

Test your employees

Entrepreneurs often don’t know anything about their employees, such as their personal qualities, talents, advantages and flaws. If you never tested your personnel, it is very possible that you are losing the opportunity to use their abilities to the benefit of the company. Therefore, I recommend that you conduct personnel assessment and opt for a professional testing. Among other things, it will expose weak and toxic people in your team who weigh the team down and poison the atmosphere. The results of the test will help you manage your team more efficiently based on the team members’ personal traits.

Coordinate and support your team more actively

You should hold staff meetings and communicate with your employees more often. Try to learn how the projects are being implemented, set tasks with a deadline and monitor the performance. For instance, on Mondays my team and I have a big meeting to discuss financial issues, weekly goals and concrete situations. Then, each day, we spend about an hour to set daily goals and see how the work is going.

It is also important to support your team. Ask your employees what they need to improve their performance and what they want to get. Sometimes the problem lies in lack of motivation. For instance, I often ask my team members about their personal goals. Some need to pay out a loan, others want to purchase a car or an apartment, or travel. If the manager helps the employee to reach their personal goal, they can reach the goals of the company. How should it be done? Ask your workers what sum they need and see how they can earn more money: by launching a special project, closing a major deal, creating a new department, a program or making a certain number of sales. That is, the leader should set a concrete task: if you want a million rubles, do this and that, and in three months the million is yours. If an employee reaches a personal goal with the help of its manager, they will be more loyal to the company and you will less likely lose a valuable worker.

Here is yet another example of helping a company by solving an employee’s issue. Head of Content at our Startup Founders Club said she wanted to leave her job due to unsustainable workload. We spoke with her and made a decision to hire a personal assistant, to whom we delegated routine tasks while the manager received more time to perform her responsibilities. This is how we managed to keep a qualified specialist at the company, improve the quality of work, and develop the employee/employer relationship.

Change payment model

Prior to the crisis, corporations used to pay high salaries without difficulty. Now, however, this has proven inefficient, and creating a result-oriented payment system is more reasonable – such as offering a small base salary plus additional percentage based on customer acquisition and KPIs to motivate employees. This is to show that such a model helps them earn much more than a regular salary – but the amount will depend solely on their performance.

Not every employee would agree to this – yet, those who are actually motivated and willing to work have nothing to fear as this is of mutual benefit both for the specialist and the company. For instance, I have a young man in my team who started working to receive a salary of only RUR20K ($340) for a couple of months, and went on to receive as much as RUR80K as soon as certain KPIs were set and payment was designated for specific tasks. Salaries of the company executives are solely performance-based.

Adjust your organizational structure

You should have a clear understanding of what employees you need to involve in your team. Make up a complete list of positions, and describe their tasks and ways they will interact with workmates. Everyone should perform their duties and be aware of their responsibilities.

However, in a crisis period, many find themselves performing others’ duties as well, along with their own. In this case, clarify the process by specifying each employee’s current tasks and responsibilities. This will help avoid suspended tasks and save time while looking for workers to complete them. If necessary, organize additional webinars or purchase courses for training employees to acquire required skills. Simply telling a person that they now have another five additional responsibilities is likely to lead to more confusion. As a team, we conduct trainings, give instructions, develop work models and demonstrate examples on a regular basis.

It is also important to explain why such restructuring efforts are necessary. Since a crisis is often accompanied by losses, it is important to make the team understand that in case they fail to improve efficiently, there is a high chance of both the company and employees encountering problems with earnings.

Delegate tasks and encourage employees

A common mistake entrepreneurs make is taking full responsibility and not allowing employees to make their decisions; this actually ruins any initiative from workers. You should try to build a horizontal management structure for all processes to go through the general communication of departments rather than through the director. You may have to change your outlook to allow employees to take responsibility without exerting too much control – yet the results are worth the effort.

In a crisis, boosting the team’s efficiency is essential, and there are different ways to achieve this. It is important to find weak links in personnel, processes, products and services, and take efforts to improve the situation and be prepared to abandon traditional approaches.

By Igor Glotkin, founder of the GTS Consulting human resources staffing agency

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