A Sustainable Proposition

By John Beadle, Rio Tinto.

How many consultants have tried to flog their latest offerings to help recruit, motivate and retain your people in difficult times? How many books and articles have you read that contain the panaceas for business turn around? And how many times have you reviewed your own proposition because it was simply not designed to cope with the economic conditions that we face today?   

But as we go away and rethink, redesign, and communicate our revised propositions once again, how many of us are thinking the unthinkable…….about how the changes we make will help us cope with the good times? Or are we already resigned to doing this all over again when (and for younger readers it is when, not if) the economic cycle turns around and we need to consider how to recruit and retain high performing, skilled staff in buoyant labour markets.

Having entered the natural resources sector, where the commodity cycle is a fact of life, it has surprised me just how inflexible some of the programmes and offerings in the industry can be. They are often designed for the times – whether they were fair or ill – and have to be thrown out or given a major refit when the cycle changes. This makes very little business sense to me.

This has got me to thinking. As we develop our solutions for the current reality – whether it is pay schemes, incentives, pension or benefit plans – how much scenario testing are we really doing to see how adaptable they will be when we finally leave the recession?  Are they sustainable for the long term or will we succumb to the charms of another bunch of consultants or the latest article and engage in yet another refit, with the accompanying cynical cry from our employees?

I believe we need to be more agile than this, even if it lands us with criticism.  I vividly recall tabling a programme in a past life hat was designed in anticipation of a future change in the business cycle, and facing a fair share of criticism from colleagues and clients because it did not meet the ‘business needs’ of that particular moment.  I understand that today it is one of their most popular programmes. This has made me all the more determined to continue to build a reward offerings for the long haul that can support good times and bad. Will you?

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