Post by Patricia Hewitt, contributing Women On Business writer
The news in the financial markets is getting worse every day, and even if your company is one of the lucky ones that operates in a â€œbomb proofâ€ market (not sure if there are any of those left), your employees and their families may not be feeling quite so safe and secure.
Itâ€™s been a long time since Iâ€™ve spoken with so many people concerned about the economy or whose children are struggling to find work or are dealing with a spouse that is unemployed or threatened with a lay-off. Not a recent Sunday has gone by where our pastor hasnâ€™t asked for additional food donations to help the increasing numbers of people coming to the Church for help. Itâ€™s a stressful time for everyone.
Whether stress is generated internally (by organizational change or challenging business cycles) or externally (by an unstable economic environment) itâ€™s easy for a leadership team to become so focused on managing their way through tough decisions, that they neglect the morale of their companies.
Often staff employees think that economic difficulties and stress donâ€™t impact their bosses â€“ particularly senior management. They view them as insulated and out of touch with the common worker. This perception (however wrong) can create even more unrest and dissatisfaction within the ranks that adds to an already pessimistic environment and can have a decidedly negative impact on service levels and productivity.
If morale boosting isnâ€™t on your radar, now may be the time to consider your work environment and whether it can be enhanced in ways that underscore your commitment to creating a workplace that is positive, uplifting, and supportive to everyone in it. Here are a few suggestions:
- Make yourself visible. Few things make employees more nervous than seeing their managers behind closed doors all the time. Walk around, talk to people, stop by and visit. Let them know by your presence and your attention that you care about your workers.
- If appropriate, consider sending out a note acknowledging these difficult times, empathizing with employees, and offering your support. Follow that up with walk-about to reinforce your message.
- Organize a food drive and be there to collect donations and help make the delivery to your local food bank. Working side by side with your employees reinforces your position as a member of your own team, and doing something good for the community gets everyone pulling together towards a common goal.
- Have HR conduct a review of coaching techniques with your managers and supervisors. Encourage them to pay close attention to morale issues and let them give people a chance to voice their concerns.
- Identify employees who are â€œstirring the potâ€ and pro-actively reach out to them. Ignoring the squeaky wheel at times like these only serves to keep the fire burning.
- If you offer an Employee Assistance counseling program, remind employees about it. If you donâ€™t and youâ€™re in a particularly hard-hit sector, consider providing access to a trained counselor at a free or reduced cost.
- Incorporate something fun into the daily routine. Even adults love to play and itâ€™s a good way to blow off steam. Something as simple as bringing in an ice cream vendor one afternoon letâ€™s people relax and enjoy the moment.
- If your employee recognition program has been gathering dust, resurrect it and if you have one established, make sure itâ€™s an even bigger deal. This also serves to remind people how successful the company is.
- Consider giving everyone a grocery store gift certificate around the holidays.
- Try very hard not to cancel the annual Christmas party, picnic or holiday social. If you donâ€™t have one scheduled and canâ€™t afford it, organize a potluck lunch. People need to a chance to get together, and the holidays are time we all expect to have a little fun.
Your staff is the lifeblood of your company and now more than ever, they need extra attention. Talk to your HR managers about other ways that you can provide support to your employees in these tough times. I assure you, it will not be forgotten.