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Full Employment Scenario Puts Spotlight on Internal Corporate Meetings

Instead of letting go of lesser-performing employees, companies need to adjust their efforts to train and educate them based on strategic objectives.

First-time unemployment claim data released this week by the U.S. Labor Department shows that there are simply not enough potential workers with the right skills to fill the number and types of jobs that are available. Specifically, applications for new unemployment benefits—a figure generally used as a proxy for layoffs—fell to a 49-year low in August 2018. What this means is that companies that would typically let go of employees who aren't doing their jobs adequately are choosing to keep those employees, as the companies are unlikely to find satisfactory replacements.
Such a situation puts pressure on corporate training and meeting departments to adapt their programs in a way that makes employees more productive and valuable to the organization. But there is a strategic choice that corporate executives must make—one that will also affect the duties of their meeting planners. It is this: Does the organization adapt its educational programming to focus most heavily on shoring up employees' weak areas? Or should the firm create programming that instead focuses on reinforcing demonstrated employee strengths, so that less-well-rounded employees can contribute more in their areas of strength while areas of weakness are reassigned to other employees (thus requiring some retraining) or are outsourced?
Stuart Hearn, founder and CEO of performance-review software firm Clear Review, notes that research from the past two decades shows that a strengths-based employee focus is better for organizational performance. For instance, a 2002 study by the Corporate Leadership Council (now Gartner) of 19,000 managers and employees found that when companies focus on employee strengths during performance reviews, employee performance rose by up to 36 percent. Conversely, they found that a focus on weakness decreased performance by 27 percent.

More recently, research firm Gallup found that managers who received strengths-based feedback improved their productivity by 12.5 percent, while improving company profitability by 8.9 percent. Strengths-related feedback has also been linked to improved goal achievement, employee engagement, and loyalty. Employees who receive recognition and encouragement of their strengths also learn more quickly and show higher levels of discretionary effort.  

Hearn says that rather than pushing for all employees to be strong all-around contributors, corporate departments would be better served if managers assigned responsibilities to employees with the appropriate skills rather than attempting too much remedial education. "When employees are able to work to their strengths, they feel more positive and engaged and are therefore more passionate about their work and their company."

As a result, corporate executives and the meeting planners who partner with them have some event-content decisions to make in this present environment, where organizations must do the best they can with the personnel they have.

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