By GREG CASE, president and CEO of Aon Corp.
By committing to building the best, hiring the best and being the best, a firm can be positioned to flourish as opposed to merely sustain.
Leaders examine all aspects of the organization and track how key contributors are responding to a crisis, reflecting on the past, learning from it, envisioning a new organization when needed and projecting optimism and confidence about the future. Our colleagues who own the key customer relationships serve as the sources for innovation and possess irreplaceable intellectual property. They are mission-critical; for without them, Aon simply wouldn't be able to navigate the current turmoil, resulting in a potential loss of our competitive advantage.
Organizations take a chance when they fail to keep the pipeline of future leaders filled. We know that our high-potential leaders are our future, and invest in them accordingly. Research shows that the effectiveness of management training is enhanced by 50 percent when even a minimal level of personal executive coaching is involved. Even in these challenging times, it is crucial to maintain this strategic approach.
If downsizing is required, leaders must be armed with a clear picture of current and future needs via a fact-based assessment of talent levels. Most organizations today are wisely using a scalpel rather than an axe to downsize, but they must be guided by clear-eyed, fair and accurate talent evaluations. Existing performance appraisals are a good starting point, but can be biased and therefore inadequate for making these decisions. Personal interviews, competency assessments and workforce planning scenario analyses are additional tools to help mitigate the likelihood of costly post-downsizing litigation.
In today's economy, organizational transformations such as mergers, acquisitions and divestitures will increase as employers seek to cut costs, increase access to capital and streamline products and services. As these changes directly affect personnel, firms must dedicate the proper resources and experts to help with leadership changes, job redesign, staffing levels and crisis communication.
Now is the perfect time to engage in straight talk with front-line management. All too often, even well-meaning firms engage only senior management in deal-related dialogue. Organizations that are successful in retaining employees and keeping them engaged during a transition period are those who invest the most time and energy in equipping and engaging front-line managers in carrying the messages about the change in a meaningful and relevant way.
Given that customers are won or lost every day, it makes sense to continue with those investments that build your service culture. Identify, train, motivate and reward your front-line employees who interact regularly with customers. The firms that will survive and thrive in this challenging economy are those that strengthen their customer focus and strive to be the destination of choice for the best talent.
April 15, 2009
Copyright 2009© LRP Publications