Recent announcements by the major firms of voluntary sabbaticals, redundancies, shorter working weeks and a freeze on employment has put thousands of jobs on the line and demonstrates the recession is starting to bite
What is happening at the top of the profession will be reflected in the
independent sector, albeit on a smaller scale, and we can expect a considerable
amount of shrinkage in coming months.
Many will have good reason to fear for their jobs, but there is still
competition for good staff and firms need to make every effort to ensure they
not only keep their high performers, but attract others. It might seem strange
to think of recruitment now, but this is just when you need to have the highest
calibre of people to maximise speed, efficiency and quality. Unfortunately, this
also tends to be the time when firms cut back on training and development and
look to shed staff rather than judicious hires.
When times get tough everyone looks for strong leadership and clear direction
to guide them through the problem. Alas these are qualities that are often
lacking. This means quality performers are vulnerable to poaching. Two of the
main reasons people join (or leave) an organisation are the calibre of the
management and the prospects of career development, so it is important to
maintain management development programmes. In the recession of the early 90s
many firms made wholesale redundancies and stripped out entire layers of their
staffing structure. It took them years to recover.
Another important consideration for staff is the working environment. This is
not simply the office and its facilities – it is the whole culture of the firm
and how the partners relate to the workforce.
Lack of communication between partners and staff appears to be endemic within
practices. Effective communication at all levels in a business is one of the key
elements for success and never more so than in difficult economic conditions.
With improvements in the speed and efficiency of work processing at the top of
the agenda for many firms, they are expecting staff to work harder and smarter
without ascertaining in advance that they are willing or able to do so.
Undoubtedly many firms will be looking to divest themselves of
underperforming staff but, with the attitudes currently being displayed, it is
far more likely that they will lose the ones they need the most.
Phil Shohet is a director of Kato Consultancy. He blogs