Understanding Worker Behavior

Article excerpt

5 Questions SUE OLIVER, founder1 Katana Partners

As a former HR executive at Wal-Mart and American Airlines, Sue Oliver has spent a lot of time focusing on how to get the most out of employees. Today, as many employers are laying off staff, cutting pay and slashing benefits, they are doing it with smaller workforces. Oliver, who this year founded her own consulting company, Katana Partners (named after a type of Samurai sword), says the key is that companies must analyze employee behaviors and use that to keep them engaged. Oliver recently spoke to Workforce Management New York bureau chief Jessica Marguez.

Workforce Management: Why is employee analysis so important for employers and what does it mean?

Sue Oliver: Most often employees are 50 to 70 percent of companies' expenses, but yet most companies don't have any rigor around the kinds of data they collect about employee and managers' attitudes. Simply doing some kind of segmenting like cluster analysis allows a company to understand what the segments of employees and managers are and what is driving the attitudes and behaviors from the top segment - who are usually the most high-performing, most productive workers that can be a company's brand ambassadors - to the bottom segment, who are the most disenchanted.

WM: How can companies address "survivor's guilt" that many remaining workers feel after layoffs?

Oliver: Communication is really the biggest benefit that a company can provide in a difficult time like this. I know that there are sometimes things that are confidential, but companies can be upfront about that. You want employees to feel valued and that they are being listened to, even if the news they are getting isn't good news.

WM: Is there a way of conducting layoffs that can make the impact less harmful on the remaining workforce?

Oliver: If there is time, involving employees in any sorts of choices that are possible can be helpful. …