Wednesday, June 20, 2012

8.5% is the New 6.5%

Unemployment rates won’t be coming down.  Not until business has a lot more confidence in signs of economic recovery. Business is skittish at best, outright scared if they would fully admit it. Employers have settled into stretching employees to the max with multiple job responsibilities. No hiring a replacement for Fred who just retired – Alice will take on Fred’s job.

I’m working with a high-tech manufacturer right now that embodies this pervasive trend. The environmental manager now has safety and health responsibilities (EHS). That’s always been pretty common in industry but he was already wearing several other hats.  And the facilities manager?  He is also the company’s security systems manager, their emergency preparedness and response manager, one of the corporate EHS managers and now has been put in charge of a special product quality initiative. This is not a 20 person machine shop owned and managed by bungling Uncle Waldo. This is the 400 person headquarters of a major high-tech manufacturer with multiple plants here and overseas.

I see evidence of the multiple hat scenarios every day and this past year it has greatly affected my consulting assignments. Right now I have at least four clients who have given me contracts to help them with tasks but I can’t get started (i.e., I can’t start the work and therefore cannot invoice the client for work done). Because my points of contact have been told not to spend the (already authorized) funds?  No. Because my points of contact are too busy to take on one more project, one more task, even if I am to do all the work. “I just can’t have you come now – I can’t put any attention to what you’re going to do. I already have too many projects on my plate.  How about coming in August? No, wait, October would be better.  Or maybe we could begin to get started in December.”  So how do you think my 2012 business plan is looking these days? And I’m just one little cog….


Michael said...

Same thing is happening in my state office. The job I now do was done by two people when I arrived. Same with my boss. It's the same all over!

Erin said...

Agreed. And those of us left don't dare complain about the unreasonable workload. Where are you going to find another job, after all?

In the educational sector, that means my students will be doing far less work (or at least I'll be finding ways to trick them into doing the work before they realize that I'll only be grading small portions or random samples of it). How do you effectively prepare 140+ kids to think critically & independently, write clearly & concisely & pass assessments and standardized tests without pulling all-nighters and neglecting your family for 10 months of the year? It's a question many educators are grappling with this summer if they haven't had to already. Now I understand why the old school house teachers were often single...