I just got back from a visit to DC with AL SHRM to meet with our congressmen and women as well as our senators to discuss some issues that we are concerned about. We spent a full day at the capital talking with them and their staffers and by the end of the day we noticed everyone was on the same page, but was it the right page? As our government creeps into sequestration the house and the senate seemed to be locked into an unhealthy game of chicken. With neither side willing to take their foot of the gas we could be in big trouble. The common response to our concerns was “blame the other side” & “nothing will be done until after the election”. While all of this is understandable it’s also unacceptable! Have you ever tried to bring forth change in your organization only to run into a brick wall? I’ve been there and can totally relate. How do we overcome this?
My first response is to restore the value of teamwork. Maybe each side of the fence has become so infatuated with its own side they have forgotten what our goal is. First hand I witnessed the House and the Senate unwilling to admit that their own ideas and solutions could be improved and maybe, JUST MAYBE if they started talking these ideas out they could come to a happy medium. What do we call this? We call this collaboration… So where do our organizations lack collaboration? Most of my customers fall under the manufacturing umbrella and all too often I see plant managers and shift supervisors that do not appreciate the function of their own HR departments. They all have different reasons why, but most of them have these feelings because they have never sat down on a collaborative project with HR and observed HR at its finest! Many times I see a plant environment where the top management team does not encourage interaction between HR and other departments, but do not hesitate to throw out directions to HR like “make sure we don’t get sued”. Obviously the best way to do that is to make sure communication is open and both sides can bring their concerns and ideas to the table. Encourage collaboration! If we are only talking about our ideas with like-minded people we are not necessarily opening the door for improvement on our ideas! Let’s utilize all of the different personalities involved in day-to-day business to develop the ultimate ideas that lead to positive change and innovation.
Next we should clearly define what is at stake. What happens if sequestration happens? FORCED BUDGET CUTS… and most of them not the right ones! We have already accepted that there will be no resolution before the election so government subcontractors are now faced with the decision of giving out a notice to employees on October 31st that they may or may not have a job in 60 days or waiting it out in hopes that there is a resolution that doesn’t cause them to have to lay off 33% of their workforce. This is a dicey situation: you give out notices people get worried, they start looking elsewhere for employment, maybe they leave the world of government subcontracts and start seeking employment in the private sector. If your workforce is worried everyday they come to work they aren’t producing their best quality work. If your workforce is afraid they won’t have a steady paycheck in two months they will ultimately stop putting money into the economy above necessities, leading us back to where we started. What is the other side of the coin-if they do not give out the notice and then are forced to lay off at least 33% of their workforce they are not in compliance with the law; thus opening themselves up for multiple lawsuits. Ok capitol hill, have we clearly defined some of what is at stake yet? If we do not take the time to define what is at stake no one in the organization knows what we are working to accomplish and/or prevent and that is a problem all on its own. Imagine if we all went to work everyday without knowing what our purpose was? What the company we work for stands for? What we could lose? What our employer could lose? What our customers could lose?
Now that we have ignited the spark for teamwork and everyone knows what is at stake its time to come up with a solution! Do whatever it takes to get both sides in the same room sharing ideas and devising a process that works. Do not attempt to wait it out for one side to take their foot off the gas; a game of chicken is never healthy for an organization. If your side has to be the first to make a move then do it, but do not make your organization and its employees suffer because you think your way is the right way (maybe your way is the right way, but the other side won’t understand that until there is some interaction between the two sides). As HR folks I think it is important that we do what is right for the people who will be effected in the long run, no matter the obstacles we face when trying to do so.