Illustration: Phil Couzens

Esprit de Core

The Balancing Act Of Keeping The Core Team

Recently, we held a roundtable with CFOs in Japan and everyone seemed to agree that it has been a difficult eighteen months or so but things are beginning to look up for the Japanese economy.

Many said they had gone through some cuts but now have a surviving experienced core team to help them take advantage of opportunities as things improve. But the challenge will be keeping these people as demand for them picks up.

With all that has gone on through the downturn, these key staff may feel stagnant and demotivated, but in general the economy has not improved enough for competitors to offer more money to attract them.

As a result, many of those moving – or thinking of moving – are doing so for personal development reasons. The challenge for managers is finding ways other than salary to motivate them, as demand increases.

One method of providing a sense of development is to give people a chance to contribute to the direction the company is taking with corporate strategy.

That means listening to what they think of where the company is now and where future opportunities lie, then having them act on this, so that they understand that they are contributing to the company’s future, as well as their own.

Remember that the core team now in place will know the business well and the ideas they provide may prove very valuable.

As a company moves from cutting to growth and begins looking for fresh talent, those who have contributed to strategy are not only more likely to feel they are part of the growth and stay on as a result, they will motivate and act as positive peers and managers for new staff.

There are of course other ways of making key staff feel that their development needs are being met. Investing in personal and professional development by offering training and education, or giving people the opportunity to work in other offices in the region and around the world also provide a sense of fulfillment.

Promoting a work-life balance by eliminating overtime or introducing flextime not only reduces costs but also helps staff feel that management cares about their quality of life. Even activities such as company trips, team lunches and drinks after work can build morale and team sprit.

For many, the past eighteen months have been defined by a wait-and-see attitude. As the turnaround begins, and without information, people will make their own decisions as to the best options for career development and personal growth.

As an employer right now, nurturing the development of the core team now in place will increase retention and position the organization well for growth.

David Price is Japan's Managing Director for specialized recruitment firm Robert Half International

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