This Week's Herman Trend Alert

Leadership in Normal 2.0

  The Herman Trend Alert

March 19, 2003

Corporate Conflict Looms

Over the past few years, employers have downsized, rightsized, and tightsized to reduce personnel costs. Reducing the number of people has chopped line item expenses, but has also diminished productivity. Most companies are operating today at a bare bones level, minimizing the number of employees to maintain lean operations.

Workers remaining after the housecleaning have been expected to produce at a volume and quality comparable to levels achieved with larger staffs. This experience has been a strain in most organizations, inspiring many people to look for the first opportunity to leave for greener pastures. We've talked in these e-advisories, in our speeches, and in our conversations with journalists about this strain causing emerging vulnerability to rampant employee turnover.

There's another challenge on the horizon that will place new demands on corporate leaders. Corporate culture is difficult to maintain when employees are leaving, and remaining employees are surrounded by mixed messages from management. Those employees, however, along with their leaders, are the "Keepers of the Culture." Ethics, empowerment, communications, urgency, innovation, service, and a range of other issues are important aspects of the culture---what differentiates one organization from another.

As the economy heats up again, employers will hire again to build their human resource strength. Some of the chairs will be filled by returning employees. Other employees will be new to the organization and will need to learn---or recreate ---the culture. The new hires will be different than the people who left, and different than the people who remain. Some may be more entrepreneurial. Others will be accustomed to an incompatible reward structure or have more expertise. They may be more comfortable with a "matrix organization" or less hierarchy.

Leaders should anticipate conflict between these various groups of employees because of their experience and expectations. The mission of the senior executives will be to clearly define the desired culture, then communicate that culture effectively to all members of their team^Ňas the organization goes through a metamorphosis while in motion.

Leaders who plan now for this vital work will gain a competitive advantage.

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