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Statistics released in the past week may be good enough to give even the most pessimistic of us grounds for cautious optimism. Rounding off the week the Office for National Statistics (ONS) reported that the trade deficit fell to £8.1b in June, the lowest for almost a year thanks to increased exports and in particular increased trade outside of the EU.
The figures top off a week which has seen positive reports from manufacturing and construction, from the British retail consortium and from the UK service sector which according to the PMI rose in June at the fastest pace since December 2006. With hints of house price recovery threading through some reports and a Bank of England which has announced that interest rates are unlikely to rise for some time, Britain’s bosses could be forgiven for starting to think optimistically about growth.
But are businesses which have been pared to the bone following years of recession in a position to cope with a turnaround in fortune? The order/invoice/payment lag seen by most will mean that inevitably there will be a period of time when the work will increase without there being money in the kitty to pay for extra employees. This means that businesses will have to rely on the goodwill of employees to carry the organisation through the order/payment lag time and this may not be as easy as it sounds.
Employees who have seen colleagues made redundant, who have been asked to pick up the pieces and cover two or more job positions, possibly without extra pay, may understandably be reluctant to give any more of their energy and time to the business. Processes which have been adapted to “fire fight” the tough times can compound the problem and the unwary business which has successfully navigated the recession may just find itself on the rocks at the very time when brighter skies are ahead.
The answer is to take a good hard look now at the values, processes, culture and engagement of the organisation. Values which may have stood the test of time before and during the recession may not be appropriate in the recovery. Innovation, providing exceptional levels of customer service, meaningful dialogue and empowerment are all leading the race to create the successful and lasting organisations of the future.
Some organisations have taken time out during the recession to start to prepare for the recovery. Those which have not need to step up now or they may find themselves left behind. Redefining organisational values, identifying how these will translate into company culture and practices and then engaging the hearts and minds of employees is not a one day process. But it can be a business-saver.
In fact, the simple act of running an employee engagement programme sends a powerful message out to employees. And a successful programme means that employees are re-energised and enthused with the values of the organisation. This means that not only are they more likely to give that little bit extra to get the business back on its feet, they are also less likely to walk when other growing businesses are recruiting. And when the recession means you have trimmed down to a core of experienced employees, the last thing you need is for those employees to go elsewhere just when you need them most.
Enjoy good news week, allow yourself the luxury of a smile at the faint whiff of good times to come and then make sure that your values, your employees and your processes are ready to embrace the future.