We are seeing an interesting people issue emerging as we move into a post-recession environment.
A strand of the workforce that survived the redundancy programmes but was only just competent in their roles. They were happy to keep their heads down and the employer having cut the overhead dug in for the reminder of 2009.
These businesses are now looking to grow their revenues as quickly as possible back to pre-credit crunch levels, which means having a look at the quality of the people who will make it happen, and they are faced with a stark truth. The quality of your business performance will never exceed the quality of the people responsible for its delivery. The only exception is if you are lucky enough to have a product or service that people want to buy in spite of the people they have to deal with.
Managers who can only rationalise and justify problems are no good to you when your marketplace is sluggish and/or volatile. You need people who can transcend their current environment and develop new conditions of business, moving from a reactive stance to a much more proactive one.
It isn’t the worse performing people which hold an organisation back; it’s having too many mediocre ones in key positions. And there is a further brake on this being sorted out as a function of normal market conditions. Any recovery is unlikely to drive high levels of new employment, slow improvement continues to create a very tight jobs market, so these very average managers are not going anywhere of their own volition. This can create a real sense of negative change inertia, the good people who hoped the leaner organisation would be more agile and innovative find it’s even more frustrating than before.
The challenge for HR is to move from downsizing to genuine building of bench strength. It’s the only way to grow the business ahead of a poor demand curve.