In this environment, it may be hard to figure out which employees are coping better—those who have been laid off who are now battling stiff competition in the marketplace, or those left behind to shoulder more responsibility while fighting anxiety as they await the next round of cuts. According to a survey by the Pew Research Center, a “fact tank” in Washington, D.C., 45% of Americans cite the job situation as the economic issue that worries them most.
“It’s hard to imagine that the atmosphere could be any worse,” says Bob Rosner of Workplace911.com, a syndicated online column and resource for corporate professionals. “People are scared and overworked, and they don’t feel like they have many options.” Yet, managers are challenged to maximize their staff’s time and potential, and to develop a creative, productive workforce focused on company goals for profitability. Here several experts offer strategies for revitalizing your staff.
Communicate with your team. If staff members have to read in the headlines about the company’s layoffs and declining profits, it can strain the trust between them and upper management. “Leaders and managers should over-communicate and share whatever they know so that their team members don’t feel out of the loop or like victims,” says Patricia A. Thomas, CEO and founder of THOMAS Coaching Co. Inc., a consulting firm in East Elmhurst, New York, and an associate of the McNeill Group, a global consortium of executive coaches. She advises providing regular, honest, updated status reports, even if there is no new information. “More rumors than normal may develop with so much uncertainty in the workplace, so it’s important to intercept them so that people don’t get alarmed unnecessarily.”
Keep your employees involved. Voicing the goals of the company and having your staff contribute in executing those goals will keep them engaged and motivated about their work. Rosner suggests asking employees for advice about reducing costs and increasing revenues. “If they’re smart enough to work for you, why aren’t they smart enough to get involved with discussions about cost cutting?”
Do a talent assessment. Although staffs are being reduced, many companies are also re-evaluating the talent in their organization. “Take a step back and assess that who you have on the team is in their right fit, so that they are performing at capacity,” says Veronica Conway, founder and president of Black Professional Coaches Alliance.
Let staff know they are valued. Conway asserts that appreciation in two forms—recognition of contributions and acknowledgment of unique individual qualities—can exceed monetary rewards in building morale in an organization.
This article originally appeared in the June 2009 issue of Black Enterprise magazine.