As the economy glides into something that vaguely resembles a recovery, the workplace isn't the battleground that it was at this time last year, but employees are nonetheless bruised and exhausted. There's no escaping that a marginal economic recovery brings with it a brand new set of human capital challenges. In addition, carryover issues from 2009 have continued to increase in importance. Here represents what I think are key human capital strategies as we head into 2010:
Maximize Productivity Without Fatigue
Indicators all point to a jobless recovery. That means small businesses will not be inclined to hire many new employees in 2010.
That makes sense from a business standpoint, but the people who have survived layoffs and sputtering business output are suffering from the corporate equivalent of post-traumatic stress disorder. They're thankful to have jobs, but are dissatisfied with managers who've been pumping productivity out of them in order to compensate for the relative lack of manpower.
It will be paramount for executives and managers to communicate to employees that even if staffing ratios remain low for the time being, there are opportunities for greater responsibilities, career advancement and financial rewards down the line. Employees who have managers that help them understand their own stake in the business are more likely to be engaged in their projects and therefore offer maximum productivity. Implement the best possible performance management solutions, and train managers on how to use them. This will help managers find the right balance on their teams between an increased workload and issues of fatigue.
Make Sure Hiring Doesn't Start Behind the Curve
The economic recovery may be jobless, but only for now. The months ahead present a tremendous opportunity for opportunistic executives to begin hiring in the first half of 2010, even if doing so bumps up against their need to conserve cash.
The start of 2010 presents a chance to ensure that your organization gets star players before it becomes a candidates' market again.
A robust talent acquisition system can support this initiative. That team should use technology to hone efficiency; from keeping onboarding costs down to the ability to target passive candidates. And the hiring strategy should leverage social media as well as traditional recruiting sources.
Only key hires should be made during this time, with a special focus on unique or hard-to-get skill sets. These players will be the most in demand as the economic engine recovers.
Social Media Gets Even More Socialized
Speaking of social media, its importance to the business landscape will continue to grow, and executives who ignore it do so at their peril. Social media offers significant advantages--such as the afore-mentioned recruiting tool--as well as providing a community for your employees to engage with one another.
But social media also carries significant dangers. Disgruntled employees can "tweet" their dissatisfactions, and ex-employees have been known to band together and form Facebook groups designed to smear their former employer's reputation.
The most obvious first step is to ensure that your organization has a social media policy. But it's also important to actively intervene in your company's social media presence. It's not possible to control the conversation, but by being an active participant--building a Facebook community or LinkedIn group, updating your company's Twitter page--you can guide and influence that conversation.
Doing so will help you tell the right story when people encounter your company online, and go a long way toward building your employer brand as human, engaged and responsive.
And finally, I suggest that you remain as agile as possible. As economic conditions continue to fluctuate, and health care reform becomes something tangible and actionable, small businesses that can seamlessly adjust their plans accordingly will be best positioned to thrive in the new year. Stretching those corporate muscles and staying limber may turn out to be the best human capital strategy for 2010.