Storm-proofing your business (or, ‘There’s nothing like a good recession’)

Mississauga Board of Trade
Mississauga Board of Trade


January 8, 2016


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janheadshotwebBy Jan van der Hoop

There’s another storm coming. I can feel it in my bones.

I swear, it feels like the world is getting crazier every day. Between the fighting and the terrorism, H-bomb testing, China’s economy collapsing and the election run-up in the US, it’s getting harder and harder to turn on the news.

Here at home, things are feeling more and more precarious. Sure, we are still swelling with pride over our shiny new PM, but even that honeymoon will end. But between oil’s crash and a 70-odd cent dollar it’s going to be a tough haul for Canadian business.

The smart ones among us will take advantage of the opportunity to prepare for the coming storm. While we tend to focus primarily on cutting costs and shedding unnecessary assets, there’s an awful lot you can be doing on the people-side of your business as well.

Downsizing is often a necessary evil.  The upside is that it does give you the opportunity to optimize your organizational talent. While cost cutting may be inevitable; it’s important not to fall into some of the common traps that will put you at a disadvantage when the economy turns around.  The bottom line is that you need to know your human capital inventory well enough to make the best decision, and have the courage to take calculated risks to upgrade when the opportunity presents itself.

Our researchers have identified four essential tactics to optimize your organizational talent.

1. Remove your chronic underperformers

You’ve probably seen this before: Jenny is a nice person and doesn’t cause a lot of waves, but she just isn’t very good at her job. She’s moved around and has had a lot of chances, but she just doesn’t have what it takes to be effective.

First, identify your least effective employees. Then determine if they are chronic low performers or just a bad fit for a particular job, or have a bad manager, insufficient training or lack of resources. However, you need to be honest with yourself. They may be nice people, but if they can’t or won’t add sufficient value, then you need to make the tough decision and let them go. If you endure them, then your marginal to top performers lose the incentive to go above and beyond average job performance; they see mediocrity is both tolerated and accepted.

  1. Lose your bad apples Do you have bad apples on your team? These people may have some talent and may even be good at their jobs, but do their bad attitudes, negativity, and trouble-making behaviours really make them worth keeping? In these times, it is essential to get rid of them.

Have you considered the collateral damage? Research shows that people assimilate to their environment, which means that poor morale is contagious. Gallup estimates that actively disengaged workers cost the American economy up to $350 billion per year.  Bad apples distract your productive employees and negatively impact productivity.

Swallow hard and show them the door.

3. Uncover your hidden gems and invest in them — Low Cost + High Potential = Mother Lode!

Once you have made necessary reductions and redeployments, begin tapping into your richest resources. Is your organization utilizing its talent to its fullest potential? They are called “human resources” for a reason! Make use of the resources you have, with a process to prospect within your departments. According to an ASTD research study, most organizations focus on talent management for senior executives and high potentials. The decision to have such a narrow focus thwarts talent upgrade efforts.

In order to upgrade talent company-wide, employees in all positions should be audited and considered. You will find your “diamonds in the rough”.

  1. Never stop your hunt for high quality outside hires — The Folly of Hiring FreezesThe notion of a “hiring freeze” is a ridiculous concept because you should always be on the lookout for the very best people you can find, regardless if they are internal or external recruits. Times of change and uncertainty present unique opportunities for organizations.The supply of talent has never been so abundant or so affordable. There are large numbers of sales, finance and technical professionals trained at Fortune 500 companies looking for work. These people may not be right for every organization, but they often bring advanced training, know-how and contacts.

It costs very little to assess and interview qualified candidates. By strategically retaining your worthwhile employees, you increase the likelihood of them remaining with you for the long haul.


 Jan van der Hoop, President, Fit First Technologies. Jan can be reached via e-mail at

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Mississauga Board of Trade
Mississauga Board of Trade
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