James GodfreyI think we were all hoping a relaxing Christmas break, recharged batteries and an optimistic attitude might have been enough to kick off 2009 in a positive fashion. We must have forgotten to cross our fingers.

Unfortunately, there are factors beyond the control of all of us that have a significant influence on life today. My reference to Robinson Crusoe is nothing to do with your recent holiday destination. In today’s environment, we are all in the same boat, so don’t feel you are the only one facing tough decisions.

My previous article, The Talent Buffet, looked at rebalancing your “People Portfolio”. This is one strategy that will build value in your business, and deliver a positive return on investment (ROI) during the financial crisis, because the market for talent tends to be countercyclical.

This continues to be proven, with the release of talent from some big-name brands: Macquarie, Goldman Sachs JBWere, MLC and Perpetual (among others) all recently announced significant redundancies or have reported large headcount reductions since September last year.

Outside of this we also have Australian expats returning from offshore markets that have been savaged even more than ours. The result is that for the first time in many years you, the employer, have the choice.

I am therefore encouraging you to make some tough decisions on people in your business who you know are not right. You may have been holding on to them because:

  1. You couldn’t risk not having someone in the role
  2. You didn’t know whether you could replace them with someone better
  3. You see their potential but have not seen the results or
  4. You just don’t like making decisions that affect people’s lives

You will feel a weight off your shoulders and you will be helping those people find an alternative role and environment that suits them better.

Let’s explore the first stage of the five-stage process I outlined in The Talent Buffet for rebalancing your people portfolio: In that article I wrote:

1. Regroup:
Get into a positive mindset, embrace market conditions and use it as a catalyst for change. There is a surplus of talent more realistic and accepting of fair remuneration levels. Take emotion out of the tough decisions. We’ve all had underperforming employees that we like and care about. Good economic times allowed us to overlook their shortcomings but it’s time to make some tough calls and be commercial. Think about past staffing decisions both positive and negative and identify learning’s as you will need to draw on these. Be commercial, have a plan and set a line in the sand. Get HR advice to make sure you understand your obligations. Execute this plan with integrity, care and honesty as transparent communication is imperative. Your brand and reputation can be destroyed if this is handled poorly.

I think the hardest thing is getting yourself into the right frame of mind to make the decision to do something in the first place. Once you are committed then it’s about building a process and delivering it appropriately.

A good place to begin is to reflect on why you started a business or took on the responsibility for a business. Do this away from the office and in a place you can think clearly, objectively and even creatively.

Be selfish for a change: focus on what it is you want to achieve; the lifestyle you want to lead; the way in which you want to do business; and the people you want around you to help you do this.

The purpose of this is to get you away from the operational day-to-day mindset, because you may be stuck in the past or, even worse, in a rut. Often the reality of the situation is directly opposed to what you want in life and from your business.