Booms, Bottlenecks and How to Prepare Your Organization for Growth
start with the booms
Jamie Dimon, head of JP Morgan Chase, recently proclaimed he believes we’re at the cusp of an economic boom. I agree. While many businesses suffered during the pandemic, there were a substantial number that fared reasonably well. My sense is that number could be north of 50% — businesses who grew a little, got PPP loans (that were forgiven), cut expenses, and, as a result are sitting on significant cash cushions. These organizations are ready, willing and able to spend and invest and looking for things to spend and invest in that can/will grow their business. And that will fuel the economy.
Then there’s the government. Congress just passed a $1.9 trillion economic relief package that’s currently pouring money into the economy — aimed at that portion that didn’t fare so well during the pandemic. And, there probably will be some form of infrastructure bill getting through congress as well (probably again, north of a trillion dollars). Many businesses are ready to explode on their own. So, the government throwing another $2-5 trillion into the economy can’t help but yield a boom. It will. And it’s right around the corner if it isn’t already here.
Now, the bottleneck
There’s a problem with all of this. Prior to the pandemic, the biggest bottleneck across organizations was people — there weren’t enough talented people for organizations to grow. That was then.
It’s about to get worse. The pandemic drove a significant number of boomers into retirement. The immigration spigot has been off for four years and will continue to be off for at least the next year, probably longer. There aren’t enough people coming into the workplace to replace those who have left it. Indiana’s unemployment rate is currently at 4% and the nation’s is at 6%, both coming steadily down. And restaurants and hotels have yet to get to full capacity. And the employment boom that will result from the nascent economic boom has yet to materialize. Businesses aren’t quite sure if they’re going to grow the way it looks like they might and aren’t quite ready to start hiring. Very soon, I predict, the economy will be very short of people. Think 2% unemployment or lower. Smart people with talent will be more in demand than ever before.
Finding talented people will shortly become the biggest bottleneck preventing an organization’s ability to ride the wave of growth that is about to arrive. How will you assure you’re positioned to access the people you need?
Prepare your organization for growth
If you’re not concerned about the state of your culture, you need to be.
Let me digress. We signed on to be a part of the Orr Fellowship last year. This is an organization that places the most talented impending graduates from around the Midwest into those companies who participate. More than 100 students are selected and are interviewed and, in turn, interview the organizations who take part. As we looked for our Orr Fellow, the one question every candidate asked Heather Haas (our President) and me was, “Tell me about the culture at ADVISA.” They wanted to get a sense of what they were getting into if they joined our team.
The most talented people understand the culture of an organization is what ultimately drives work satisfaction among it’s employees. And when there aren’t enough employees to go around, your culture will be your single greatest point of leverage to either succeed or fail as the talent bottleneck gets tighter.
There are two questions you, as a leader, should be thinking about:
Does our culture need to be fixed?
I believe cultures are magnetic. Some cultures are so strong, they attract people. As a leader, you field calls from talent inquiring about opportunities within your business. Thankfully, we have created a workplace at ADVISA where that’s exactly what happens. We’re a positively magnetic culture. We have developed a bench of folks who are interested in joining our company when the opportunity presents itself. That’s where you want and need to be.
There are some cultures that are equally strong, but in the opposite direction – people want to escape from them. Sometimes, this is the entire organization. Sometimes it’s just a pocket of people working under a difficult leader. These cultures are negatively magnetic. They repel employees.
The vast majority of organizations have neutrally magnetic cultures. The employees’ attitudes are, “I’ll stay here until something better comes along.” In the incipient employee bottleneck, this situation will not allow you to successfully compete. You simply won’t be able to keep the talent you need to grow.
How do we fix our culture?
There are three things you’ll want to evaluate if you believe your culture needs to be fixed:
- Do we have a clear direction / strategy that everyone understands that lays out where we’re going (strategic plan), what everyone’s role is within it (clear delineation of roles and responsibilities), how it ties to our destination (individual measures that aim at our goals), and how we treat each other getting there (values statements translated into behaviors that are demonstrated throughout the organization)?
- Do our managers and leaders have the training, skills, emotional intelligence, and tools to understand how their subordinates want to be led, trained, communicated with and the ability to deliver what’s needed?
- Are our people in jobs that are likely to provide them with the satisfaction of doing work they enjoy doing and that suits their personalities?
If the answers to any of these questions is no, you likely need to begin thinking about how you can address the resulting problems. Each and every one of them can impact your culture, and make it more positively or negatively magnetic as a result.
If you’d like to discuss how any of these issues are impacting your business, give me or your ADVISA consultant a call. We can help you create the positively magnetic culture you’ll need to thrive in the next several years.
If you’re looking to learn more about organizational culture and its impact on the post-COVID workplace, read this recent article by Leadership Consultant Mandy Haskett.
And, if you’re currently hiring new employees but onboarding them virtually, you’ll enjoy “Lessons in virtual Onboarding: Connection, Connection, Connection” by ADVISA’s President Heather Haas.