Today, I want to talk about an issue that is relevant to anyone in the business world, no matter what they do.
I see so many people who live under the umbrella of thought that if they have a job today and are making good money, that they are safe from layoffs, cutbacks, and firings. I’m telling you now, don’t be asleep at the wheel! These people will often find out when they are 45-50 years old, that their company no longer needs their services.
I’ve seen it firsthand here in Bentonville, both from the vendor side and the retailer side. No one is safe in today’s volatile market. No one is safe from getting that pink slip with a month’s severance and not even a “thank you.”
Retailers are changing from cashiers to self-check-out lanes and some retailers are testing robots to stock shelves. Companies are using technology breakthroughs and testing computers daily, trying to eliminate employee costs. After all, computers may occasionally break down, but they also have no sick days or vacation days, no wasting time on social media, or just playing silly games while they are on the employer clock. You can bet that if employers can replace people with technology, they will.
Businesses are charged with running smooth operations and getting the best ROI for the stockholders, all while maintaining that credible balance of decent working conditions and opportunities for the employee. But once companies pay you for the last two weeks’ worth of work, they feel the company and you are square. If a company can figure out a way to replace you, and save time and money, they owe it to the stockholders to replace you with technology.
I was down in Dallas this past weekend where I went on several toll roads and it struck me—I did not see a single cashier in all the toll booths I went through. Cameras and computers have completely eliminated their jobs.
You might be saying right now, “Bob, you are scaring me! What can we as employees do to prevent getting laid off or fired?”Unfortunately, there is no guaranteed way to prevent this from happening but there are ways to help you become more valuable to your employer.
Here are three ways I believe you can become more valuable to your current employer. I’ve talked about all three of these before, but not in the context of becoming more valuable as an employee.
This means staying abreast of your industry and doing anything and everything to learn more through trade journals, industry shows, and just plain focused research. Your goal should be to be so entrenched in your industry that your boss is so worried you might leave because of your knowledge and skills, that he cannot even think of firing you! Plus, he wouldn’t want you as a competitor. The second part of the continuous learning is that you will be so widely recognized as an industry expert that competitors will come calling to take you away.
Now, I’ve talked about networking several times, and I cannot emphasize enough the importance of networking. Success in business is much about who you know, who knows you, and how they know you. If you want to be recognized as an expert in your area of skills, you need to get out and let others know about you. That is done through in-person networking and some social media like LinkedIn.
No matter where you network, it’s important to mix and mingle with other industry experts and your competition. Most of the authorities today tell college grads that they will most likely hold five to seven different jobs throughout their careers. You too will probably be displaced or promoted that many times in your career. Networking will be responsible for a minimum of four of those opportunities, so it is critical to be out and networking with others in your industry.
Have a good, positive attitude and be a team player
If two employees are about the same skill level and one must be let go, it won’t be you if you handle yourself professionally, encourage other team members, and pitch in to make the entire team successful. My work job description was always “Whatever It Takes” – bosses notice the employees who are working to make the team successful and your coworkers will also appreciate and respect that you went above and beyond to make the team successful.
The job market today—even though we are seeing records set with people working—is still unstable and a little frightening, especially if you have responsibilities like a family to support, and bills to pay. National averages don’t mean much if you get a pink slip. Use the three suggestions above and lessen the chances of getting fired and raise the chances of getting promoted or stolen by a competitor. Your job security will not be dead if you just have a plan to make good things happen and better prepare yourself for troubled times.