Julie Brault, Vice-President and General Manager at U92 (Photo: courtesy)
MAIL FROM READERS. A text by Julie Brault, Vice-President and General Manager at U92, proud member of the Humanise collective
Coming out of this pandemic, we know how much our lives have been turned upside down: our elders, our children and our vulnerable loved ones have been affected by the crisis, have fallen ill, some have died. Perhaps humanity will have needed an invisible and contagious evil and a war with global social and economic repercussions to realize its fragility, that our passage on Earth is ephemeral and that life is short. . Faced with all these challenges, we are rethinking our purpose and at the same time reviewing our relationship to work, money, family and our community.
Since the labor market and the economy have not been spared, who has benefited the most from the chaos of the past two years? To governments, public institutions, private companies, their managers or their employees? It can be said that some private companies have been strongly negatively affected while others have benefited from an unexpected windfall and have seen their business prosper. While small, well-established businesses struggled to stay open despite sanitary measures, the Amazons of this world saw their turnover jump, the giant recording sales of 108.5 billion dollars (B$) and a profit. of $8.1 billion for the first quarter of 2021, a growth of 220% compared to the previous year.
Although the misfortune of some often makes the happiness of others, countless companies of various sizes will hardly, if ever, recover from the period that we are still going through. We need only think of the catering, entertainment and arts sectors.
However, the same reality affects both successful and struggling businesses: the shortage of labour. The scarcity of talent is pushing for a fundamental transformation of the balance of power between employers and employees. To navigate this transformation successfully, we must not underestimate the impact of COVID on companies, and especially on the managers who are on the front line. So what are the main elements to consider in order to maintain talent motivation and ensure profitability?
The invisible tax
If the employee has been able to hold his own in the real work revolution, the manager only has to behave himself, because he must face a new reality where he must meet increasingly high expectations. talent (a scarce and valuable resource in times of scarcity) while maintaining growth and profitability.
From a human point of view, the manager must:
● find innovative solutions to the problems of attraction and retention;
● prepare the succession;
● reducing work hours to promote work-life balance and mental health;
● meet high expectations in terms of working conditions.
But that’s not all. A significant proportion of organizations have seen their profitability decline since 2020 and are suffering the consequences of economic instability. A manager who systematically responds to new demands risks greatly harming his performance, even his survival.
This is the challenge that many businesses in Quebec are currently facing. COVID and the war in Ukraine are both like an invisible tax that we must now learn to juggle, in a difficult context for SMEs who have limited resources to satisfy a demanding workforce (remember that SMEs count for 99.8% of businesses, i.e. almost all employers in Quebec).
Added to this are the effects of COVID, which are slow to fade, and the economic uncertainty resulting from the war in Ukraine. Faced with worrying inflation and an accelerated transformation of the labor market, how can employers and managers innovate in a changing world whose final form has not yet been assumed?
The salary, a sufficient motivation?
The demands of employees, who have the lion’s share of today’s labor market, are numerous: more telework, more flexibility, more training, better career opportunities, better quality of life, less pressure, a higher pay and better conditions, starting now.
How to respond to them while maintaining its operating costs at an acceptable level and the excellence of its products and services?
The first reflex would be to improve the conditions as much as possible and to offer the competitive salaries requested, at the risk of seeing its profitability decrease. Falling into the game of one-upmanship can however represent a major trap. Numerous studies have amply documented this: salary and working conditions, insofar as they are fair and competitive, have little influence on the motivation and level of commitment of employees. A meta-analysis of 120 studies by Tim Judge and colleagues found the correlation between salary and job satisfaction to be very weak. In other words, if you want an engaged workforce, raising wages is not enough.
If the demands of employees are numerous, they also express a more imminent need according to our own experience in the field: today’s talents first seek to find meaning in their work.
If money doesn’t buy happiness, how can we make our employees happier, more mobilized and more engaged in the long term?
A manager at your service
The culture of the organization and the quality of its leadership have never been more important than now. Of course, flexibility, telecommuting and shortened hours represent undeniable factors of attraction and retention, but the ability to give meaning and to stimulate the desire to surpass oneself represents even more important assets for the employer.
It is well known, in most cases, employees do not leave organizations, but rather leave their boss. How can managers reinvent themselves?
Here are some practical tips:
● Adhere to the values of the organization and set an example on a daily basis;
● Make yourself accessible and know how to listen to your employees, even outside of formal meetings;
● Learn to ask “What can I do for my employees?”, rather than “What can my employees do for me?”. In a way, adopt a posture of “leader-servant”;
● Be predictable and consistent in action to generate trust;
● Demonstrate humility, authenticity and vulnerability, and consider mistakes as sources of learning;
● Recognize small successes and give recognition on a daily basis;
● Have clear expectations, give regular feedback and hold employees accountable for their contribution to the organization;
● Demonstrate managerial courage and act in the interest of the team and the organization, even if the impacts of the labor shortage are omnipresent.
Motivation at work, a shared responsibility
We too often forget that a manager alone cannot motivate his employees. Employees motivate themselves from these three fundamental individual choices:
○ Do I find meaning in my role in the organization?
○ How much effort will I put in to succeed?
○ For how long will I maintain this level of effort to ensure the success of what I have undertaken?
The counter-intuitive hypothesis that emerges here is that of a shared responsibility, even in a context of labor shortage, between employers and employees to build rewarding and enriching organizational environments.
Access to flexibility, telework, a salary and improved conditions are privileges and not acquired rights resulting from the scarcity of workers in certain sectors of activity. The scarcity of resources and the pressure of deliverables in no way justify accepting a lack of performance.
It remains legitimate for a manager to expect an employee:
● performs his work with professionalism;
● respects its commitments;
● have a positive impact on their workplace;
● and embodies the values of his organization.
Investing in talent, a viable long-term solution
When everyone plays their part, with an attentive and present manager on the one hand and a committed and professional employee on the other, everything is in place to allow talent to flourish within the organization — to grow in our garden — instead of being tempted to go and see if “the grass is greener elsewhere”.
Once our team is well staffed, the reflex could be to overprotect our employees, treat them with small onions and avoid asking too much of them to keep them happy and above all, to keep them in their jobs.
It would be a shame, because what most impedes the full development of an employee’s skills is… the lack of stimulation!
Sometimes being less demanding (by settling for less than what employees can actually achieve) and over-protecting talent (by shielding apprentices or less experienced employees from the consequences of their performance) is not the solution. . On the contrary, the best employees are often those who thrive on challenges and who find meaning in their work.
More than ever, we will want to invest in development, coaching and mentoring to get the best out of each staff member.
Quality leadership for positive transformation
With the emergence of a new organization of work, employers and employees must refocus on their respective obligations towards each other and reinvent the conditions that will allow all parties to benefit from a renewed and refreshing social contract.
The quality of leadership and the mobilization of employees take on their full meaning and are certainly part of the solution. The post-pandemic will surely have repercussions on talents similar to those of the industrial revolution, but to see the premises, these changes will be more positive for the well-being of humans, provided that everyone, employers and employees , do your part.
Managers are at the heart of this transformation and have a key role to play in this transformation of the world of work. They will have to redouble their ingenuity to face the many challenges posed by increased employee expectations and maintaining the organization’s profitability in an uncertain economic and geopolitical context.