With the current economy, the focus is on keeping a job. For those who lost theirs, they are looking. For those who have one, keeping it is the priority. Although both are important, there is an interesting change in many workplaces I believe will change the future significantly.
For those who keep their jobs, the way they were treated during these times will shape their futures. While many employers have been good to their employees and will continue to be, many are not.
These are the employers who believe the power has shifted. The long-looming labor shortage all of us in HR waited for has been temporarily interrupted by the economy. The shortage will be there but this isn't what we planned for.
Of course, in the grand tradition of taking advantage, many companies have turned 180 degrees to treating their best like children who are just waiting to misbehave. The autonomy earned has been reined in. The flexibility to have work/life balance? Poof, it's gone.
Right now, this can be overlooked because it is not the priority. At the same time, it will cause a different type of crisis when the economy improves. These employees will be the first to jump ship. While these employees are relieved to have jobs now, they will not forget the way they were treated.
Those of us who work with employees are aware of how far being treated with respect gets you and how easily it is destroyed. True commitment from employees is a one time deal. Once destroyed, companies never get it back. Employees may stay but they will not give their best.
If this was not true, many of us would not have jobs. I make a substantial part of my living off of poor management decisions. Right now, they are compounding.
During turbulent times, employee relations issues usually soar. Employees are afraid of the appearance of making waves. Others believe their issues will be seen as petty when they watched their coworkers get laid off. What management doesn't realize (or doesn't care) is that these issues are still there. The remaining employees are not engaged or productive.
This doesn't mean the wrong employees were laid off. This means you can't lay off coworkers and tell the survivors they are damn lucky to still be on the island. The survivors are now overworked, under appreciated, and uncertain about how long they will keep their jobs.
If you are a manager who tells your employees they should be thankful to have a job, don't expect them to thank you. In fact, don't expect them to still be your employees when things turn around.