Tips for managing employee morale in a slow economy
September 22, 2011
While the recession is over, its aftermath has far from subsided. With high unemployment, weak business sales, low consumer sentiment and a massive federal budget deficit to boot, the actual end to the recession seems arbitrary.
Consequently, businesses have been struggling to keep a leash on workforce morale. Many professionals have found themselves stuck in dead-end jobs with few career opportunities elsewhere, and that has a troubling effect on company culture and productivity.
Business owners and managers cannot let employee dismay get the best of them. Now, more than ever, companies need to be focusing on growth, and they need a staff of lively and impassioned professionals to guide them.
The first step thing managers should do in the event of decaying morale is begin monitoring engagement levels. There are a number of ways to do this, but it's important to be considerate and caring. That means bypassing impersonal questionnaires or surveys and relying more on one-on-one interviews or conversations. Offer workers the opportunity to step away from their work for a conversation. If you run a small company you may be able to take each worker out for lunch over a given time period.
Everyone wants to be involved in a project. Even if their contribution is minimal, the satisfaction one gets from simply being invited can be instrumental in boosting morale.
"If [employees] feel distant from decisions and removed from how the place works, they'll turn apathetic and their performance will suffer," writes Inc. magazine. "Preparing for a rough period may require you to address your staff more than usual. Let your staff know if the mission or strategy has changed. Discuss upcoming challenges. Talk about what's working and what's not."
It's a common misconception that salary raises lead to happier workers. The reality is that such measures merely sweep their discontent under the carpet. For that reason, make sure your staff understands that you cannot dish out raises or benefits to employees who severely dislike their job and are likely to leave at any time.
Finally, provide your workers with a degree of freedom. Nobody wants to have their boss looking over their shoulder - it breeds resentment and distrust.
"Remember that micromanaging doesn't usually solve anything, and could regularly undermine your manager's decisions, initiative and new ideas," Inc. adds. "But don't pull back too much."