Working With What You’ve Got


Realizing continued growth by maximizing current resources.

The state of Alberta’s economy has settled in, and organizations are starting to realize that it is likely here to stay for some time. Our hopes of a quick rebound have dissipated, and companies are now faced with the challenge of figuring out how to survive a downturn that many believe is the worst the province has seen in decades. When asked to define the state of our organizations, the term “growth” is increasingly being swapped for “survival”. Results from HRIA’s Spring 2016 Alberta HR Trends Report (released today!) indicated the number of organizations expecting to hire additional employees is down significantly, with only 24% of companies across all sectors planning on increasing headcount compared to 44% this time last year. However, despite the downturn, it is important for organizations to focus on achieving growth where it is still possible, through optimizing resources and maximizing internal capacity.

Refocusing our perspective on growth and realizing improvements by maximizing current and internal resources is key to achieving a powerful kind of progress; one that is attainable even as we downsize. Working with what you’ve got and optimizing your current resources, processes and team will build capacity and prepare your organization for exponential success as we rise out of this downturn.

Define Your Employer Value Proposition & Culture

On a positive note, as recruitment has decreased for many organizations, the Alberta HR Trends Report results indicate hiring confidence for positions which have vacancies has increased substantially. Layoffs have resulted in a large professional talent pool, and as a result, business owners and managers feel increasingly confident that they will be able to find and hire professionals who are a great fit for vacant positions and their organization. A good question to ask now is, what does that great fit mean?

A plentiful talent pool is only exciting if you know what you are looking for and are able to define what a great fit for your organization is. Stepping back to consider and define your organization’s values, vision and mission is time well spent and ensures that you are attracting talent that is aligned. Communication is the second component that is crucial to maximizing the efficiency of your recruitment efforts. Creating job advertisements and recruitment campaigns that communicate the culture of your organization and your employer value proposition is critical. Not only will it result in a more successful hire, but also doubles as a marketing opportunity to promote what your organization is about and working towards.

Getting feedback from your team on your employer value proposition and corporate culture is also a great employee engagement opportunity. Right now many employees are nervous about their positions, so including them in the opportunity to define your organization and its future will make them feel more secure and excited about being a part of it. 

Develop Internal Capacity

Whether your organization has recently downsized or was able to sidestep layoffs, rightsizing is the first step to maximizing resources, and this is especially true for learning and development. Ensuring you are developing the right talent is key, and once you have identified the people who are critical to your organization’s success, developing and retaining them is essential. However, with organizations across all sectors seeing a decrease in learning and development budgets, as identified in the HR Trends Report results, managers today are considering training options that maximize learning opportunity and minimize cost.

Providing employees with the opportunity to learn together through group training has become the top method for learning and development. Consider your organizational objectives and the skills your entire workforce will require to achieve these goals. Regardless if one employee is stronger in that area than another, it provides the opportunity for under developed employees to learn and experienced employees to teach, building skills and leadership capacity simultaneously.

Online learning is also rising in popularity, with 50% of Alberta’s HR professionals expecting it to become a primary learning and development tool. Webinars and online training programs are cost effective in that they can be administered multiple times throughout the year to as many employees as required, maximizing the return on investment and making them a cost effective and convenient learning tool.

Understanding what your employees want out of learning and development, and communicating how the development opportunities available can advance their professional growth and career is important. Providing a clear connection between learning and development, organizational objectives and professional growth will increase engagement and effectiveness of training.

Assess & Focus on Value Add

Your organization’s Human Resources should be aligned with strategic business objectives and focused on areas that add value. It is important to assess people programs and processes to determine which are adding the most value, and which are not appreciated or making a positive impact. An example of this is the decision many organizations have had to make over the past year to strategically downsize. While layoffs are a tough decision to make, it may be a necessary process that enables resources to be refocused on the people or positions adding the most value.

Take time to assess and measure the people programs you have in place, and determine which are making the greatest impact. Measure utilization of employee perks or elements of your benefits plan to determine whether spend in certain areas is adding value and being used by employees. Measure the impact of training programs to ensure they are achieving the intended skills development and supporting employees and the organization in an effective way. If you are missing the mark and noticing that utilization or impact is low in certain people programs, refocus those resources towards areas that are adding greater value.

It is important for organizations to realize that continued growth during the downturn is possible. Acknowledging the opportunity for growth and communicating it with your team will improve morale and provide hope for both the bottom line and your employees. Internally assess value-add and optimize current resources to maximize the impact HR programs and processes are making on achieving organizational objectives. Refocusing time, budgets and resources towards people and programs that make the biggest impact will grow your internal capacity today and position the organization for greater growth as the economy turns around.


This article was originally featured in the HRIA Essentials March newsletter. Check out other great articles featured by HRIA relevant to HR Trends and other topics. 

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