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These are worrying times. As employees, we are now faced with fear for our health and that of our family, staying at home with all that this entails, kids who will probably not be going back to school before September or October 2020, and the added fear of losing our jobs.

In the face of all this, let’s try a pragmatic approach to see what our chances are to keep our jobs and how we can go about calculating this in 5 steps.

Step 1 – Know where your company is at?

Not all companies are equal these days. Foodstuff importers and distributors, home delivery, pharmaceuticals and such companies are probably the kings of the corporate world and where anyone would be interested to invest if we were investors.

On the other hand, airlines and tourism industry and hotel businesses are probably the worst hit and probably the ones at risk of losing the most employees.

So where is your business on this slider from one extreme to another. Let’s look at this through 10 questions:

My company:

  1. What makes your company unique in the products or services it sells to its customers?
  1. How is the customer need and desires changing in relation to COVID. What do you think are the customer’s new needs and perception of your products?
  1. On a scale of 1-10, how do you think this new need or perception of the customer will affect your company?
  1. On a scale of 1-10, how do you think your company can react to align with the new customer desires?
  1. On a scale of 1-10, how much reserves do you think the company has to buffer bad times? (e.g. of the last 2 years have been great, then chances of holding longer are better).

 

My bosses:

The mindset of management and owners makes a hell of a difference in these times of crisis. Some are very optimistic to ride the new wave and change their market positioning and future, whilst others only see doom and gloom, and are too heavy or slow to react and pivot to something else to make a living.

1. On a scale of 1-10 how dynamic is the owner or management of your employer?

2. On a scale of 1-10 how depending will your management consider your company to be on Government support and credit facilities?

3. On a scale of 1-10, what is the morale and speech made to you sitting at home or working at home since the start of COVID. How has it changed since the last few weeks? What is the trend?

So this will give you a basic idea of where your company is. Be realistic.

Step 2: Are you Fat, Muscle or Bone?

OK, so you have gone through the first set of questions and you may be confident that your company will hold strong for a while. But that does not stop them from restructuring to face the tough economic times forecast by everyone. 

So, step 2 is firstly to find out, derived from the words of ‘Keith Cunningham’[1], whether you are fat, muscle or bone?

I have learnt from our US coaches to consider employees in 2 categories. Static and Dynamic.

Static is everyone considered overhead, and Dynamic is everyone who is needed to bring in revenue, cash and cashflow.

The first set of people who are at risk of t be requested to leave are those who may be considered FAT. E.g. those who do not bring any major contribution to the bottom line or otherwise are not strategic or important to the business. Management may not have bothered in good times, but with the crunch, performance and past performance stick out like a sore thumb.

FAT may also be considered people who, if fired or retrenched now, will not really affect the business. Administrative, HR, and other such support functions are more at risk than sales or marketing departments, for example (except in a company which sells products for which admin and HR are the actual money makers – such as a company secretary business etc). So, these would be the front line at most risk of getting fired people.

MUSCLE may be considered as employees who are needed for the business to perform, but are not completely essential to its survival. Companies take more time to recover if they lose muscle, and therefore management would consider longer and harder and have to be in more dire situations for this set or team to be under pressure of termination.

BONE is the core of the company. If you are the bone of a company, and you get fired, the company is probably on the path of closure in any case. If a company loses its structure, there no further point in its existence. Management or the owner had been better off filing for administration of closing the company to reduce its risks of personal liability. The Bone is therefore the safest employee place to be.

So which one are you? And of course, do not look at it from your point of view, but from what perception you have left on management so far in your career.

This takes us to Step 3 – your own performance. 

Step 3 – What is my performance like seen from a Management or owner’s perspective? 

Some of us will be at a disadvantage on this one. There are only some companies which have a formal performance appraisal system which clearly sets out where we are and what we have done so far. If you know where you are, then that is a start. If you don’t because your company has never communicated on this, then this is the time to make an intelligent calculated guess.

 

Try to answer these 5 questions: on a scale of 1 to 10:

  1. How aggressive have I been in claiming my rights and standing my ground in the past 6 months?
  1. How much have I delivered in terms of value to the company since I have been employed or in the last 6 months?
  1. How much would it cost the company to get rid of me, through normal processes without any redundancy application – e.g. seniority etc?
  1. Can the company easily find someone cheaper to replace me with the skills or tasks which I am expected to get done at the company, irrespective of my degrees and qualifications?
  1. What, if any, is the special value for the salary that I get, that I bring to the company and to its bosses?

You may have some indication on where you are now based on the last 3 steps you have performed. Let’s now look at the future. What can we do in order to change any bad perception or otherwise work hard at staking my claim at being a valued employee?

 

Step 4 – Maximising my value!

 

So what does count in these times of crisis? Your degree? Not really. Your efforts? Partly yes. Overall, we consider that it’s your mindset. The service and value mindset.

You will start hearing more and more of lawyers, trade unions, and people on their high horses claiming to know their rights and telling you yours. The bottom line these days is perhaps simpler than that: It’s your survival!

This may not be the time to claim rights but to maximise your value to any company or professional firm you work for. Consider your likeability and value instead of thinking in terms of rights. Consider treating your employer as your best and only customer that you definitely do not want to lose. You may agree or not, but it is easier to have an ego and claim your rights when you have full pockets and are able to sustain your family for a year without working than when the job market is probably non-existent.

 

So let’s see how you can add value:

  1. Go read your Job Description again – twice and then consider whether it’s worth sticking to it at the risk of losing the value which you can be for your company.
  1. Now agree with yourself that you will do whatever it takes and agree happily to do whatever it takes to help your business survive. Even if it’s not written in the Job Description. Specially in these times, there may be requirements to shift from HR to marketing, because there is a need for more marketing but less admin etc. will you have a problem with that? Shifting to something else?
  1. You may need to treat your employer as a customer, your only customer, and if you lose him, you may not see another one for a while. Calculate the financial impact of this on your family (and write this down on paper) for this coming year.
  1. It is your turn to ask your company what you can do for it. Volunteer, work smarter and lead by example in whatever field you are.
  1. ON a scale of 1-10, where are you now. If you are FAT, then consider how you can volunteer to become muscle etc. And take Action, NOW!

Step 5 – Know your rights but for the right reasons!

Knowing your rights is definitely a plus in these times. But knowing how to use it is key.

If you are planning to antagonize management or bosses with what your job description says, or your leaves allowances etc, then as with all human nature, your likeability is reduced, and your propensity to be fired inversely increased. You can see this as unfair and want to stand up for your rights. Remember Darwin’s theory of evolution. In a cyclone, the bamboo that sways with the wind is mightier and has a longer life that the large spice trees of cardamom. This is how Mauritius got populated by sugar cane rather than spice.

But nothing prevents you from knowing how much you are doing to help your company by forsaking some of your rights in return of allowing the company to breath and move ahead. Something which you may use in negotiations and dialogue to show your good faith and move from FAT, to muscle or otherwise shift perceptions about you for decision makers.  

Some examples of this are:

  1. Agreeing to take more than 11 days leave when the company wants you to take it;
  1. Agreeing not to insist for any work from home allowance even though this is an obligation in law[2];
  1. Agreeing to go on sick leave in your period of self-isolation confinement even if in Mauritius there has been no legislation which states self-isolation should be considered as sick leave contrary to the UK;
  1. Taking leave without pay for a limited but agreed time;
  1. Agreeing to work outside your job description.

Do make sure that you are in a perpetual dialogue with your bosses and hear what they need. Do bring up new ideas and ways you can assist.

Three tips to close:

  1. Avoid corridor politics – being seen to gossip and spread rumours and speculation. Employers see this as troublemaking and can heighten risk of severance.
  1. Be careful who are your counsellors and friends. Too easy for people to judge you by whom you frequent!
  1. Analyse but do not voice your opinion too freely. Easy for employers to get a message that might have been taken out of context / distorted

You may not agree with us. It may not all pay off. And you may have a bruised ego.

But you will definitely sleep easier at night and have demonstrated leadership for your family.

We wish you good health and our best regards.

Sanjeev Ghurburrun.

 

[1]  https://keystothevault.com/

[2] Rule 12 of GN 234 of 2019

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