Between the pandemic and the looming epidemic slump, your team's morale is tested to its limits. Before long, you will find your employees being barely productive. What steps can you take to ensure your employees continue to remain motivated and productive, especially when increasing expenses is out of the question? After all, leadership is all about improving individual and collective employee engagement.
The best way to start is to study the facts. What is stimulating this declining morale and productivity? 2021’s Great Resignation can deliver some answers. A report published studied the top reasons why US workers left their jobs. While 63% stated "low pay" was their reason for quitting, 63% also stated that they "saw no opportunities for advancement." Similarly, 57% claimed they "felt disrespected at work."
We can conclusively say that employees felt they were underpaid but also felt disrespected at work and neglected by the people in charge. So, it’s no surprise they decided to leave their jobs. This can further diminish the morale of your entire team. But as the manager, you can help turn things around before you see people jumping ship.
5 Ways To Keep Your Employees Engaged During A Looming Recession
Loyal, hardworking employees are what your organization needs if you hope to get through rough patches. And your role as a manager is significant in determining how employees can continue to be hardworking.
In the light of the information we just shared, we have also calibrated 5 ways you can keep your employees engaged, especially with a looming recessionary period.
1. Appreciate the Small Wins
Times of recession can be gloomy enough, but that shouldn't put a damper on your office proceedings. Learn to identify and appreciate the small wins. Has someone in your office succeeded in making a large sale? Has someone completed a training program? Or has someone delivered a new idea? These are small wins and should be celebrated like any other win.
To understand why this matters, let’s delve into the human psyche. By acknowledging small wins, you stimulate the brain's reward circuits that release chemicals that trigger feelings of pride and happiness. Such employees look forward to making even better achievements as they are encouraged.
Besides, it's the small wins that help push you forward to your end goals. Acknowledging such wins also establishes that although you didn't achieve your end goals today, you are closer to them than you were yesterday.
Of all the things that can boost inner work life, the most important is making progress in meaningful work. –
Teresa Amabile, Baker Foundation Professor at Harvard Business School
A research project published by Harvard Business Review in 2011 verified this exact principle. It discusses how people with positive inner work lives are more creative and productive and how small wins can tremendously boost positive inner work life. Large wins are rare to come by, but consistent small wins can evoke positive reactions in your employees and encourage them to be more productive.
Also, if managers fail to recognize these wins, it is against their value and role. To avoid this, give your employees their due acknowledgment.
2. Offer Professional Growth Opportunities
During times of recession, your employees may feel like their professional growth has grown stagnant. To build resilience in uncertain times, you should encourage your employees to continue working on their professional development. Of course, recessions often lead to strict budgets, lower raises, and promotions. But this shouldn’t hinder your employee's career growth.
Luckily there are plenty of ways you can provide professional growth opportunities without going over budget. You could:
Use low-cost or free resources online, such as video tutorials, guides, and software. Sites like Lynda and MediaBistro are great for finding tutorials and courses on all types of skills.
Have a veteran employee act as a mentor for newer employees to keep them engaged and provide them with critical institutional knowledge.
Look for local conferences in your vicinity that may be excellent education opportunities.
While sending your employees for master-level education may exceed your budget, you can seek low-cost adult education classes or non-degree courses around your city.
You should take the time to develop a plan that addresses each employee's goals and career aspirations. You should then follow up by offering appropriate resources such as the ones we discussed above to ensure your employees that you will continue to invest in their progressive growth.
Such an investment will boost your team's morale and your employee's productivity. They will feel recognized and valued. Moreover, if you allow your employees the opportunities to learn new skills, your company will thrive when the looming recession resides.
3. Encourage a Good Work-Life Balance
During times of recession, it's easy for employees to feel as overwhelmed as their managers. Many team members may feel unnecessarily burdened due to the situation at hand, which is not always in our control. They may fail to keep a positive work-life balance.
While you may feel that such a staff is more eager to put in the hard work to help your company get through difficult times, the results can be the exact opposite.
Any employee suffering from chronic stress can never be beneficial for a company. This stress and pressure can damper your employee's productivity and ability to perform day-to-day tasks in the office. Companies, even before the recession, recognized the importance of a work-life balance and encouraged employees to lead a balanced lifestyle. Such a lifestyle is more capable of stimulating productivity and providing satisfaction.
But How Can You, As A Manager, Help Promote Work-Life Balance For Your Employees?
Traditionally, companies would offer amenities or perks at the office to make their employees feel at ease. But the modern workforce (consisting of millennials or those born between 1981-2000) generally doesn't care for these amenities. They don't need free coffee or ping-pong tables. What they value is a career that supports their lifestyle.
Today's workforce looks for flexibility above all. A flexible work environment is known to promote job satisfaction, decrease stress and even boost productivity. This is why more and more companies are now offering flexible work hours and remote work opportunities. But this doesn’t, at all, mean that employers should shy away from providing comfortable office conditions. The goal here is to create a healthy workplace culture and environment that promotes work-life balance.
4. Give Employees More Control Over Their Work
Many people say that autonomy is the key to employee happiness.
Remember, employees can often become stressed during times of recession. In many ways, this is because they lack control over the unfolding events. Providing your employees with a certain degree of control over their work can help reduce this stress.
But How Do You Offer Them Control? And Up To What Extent?
§ You can allow employees to have more decision-making authority in their work and how they wish to execute any task. This also links to how they wish to set their work hours. You can allow them to choose to work from home if they want while still attending mandatory meetings when required.
§ They should also be encouraged to step forward with their ideas and be as confident and involved in their jobs as can be. Such employees are more likely to stay engaged and productive - even during uncertain times.
Research by the University of Birmingham Business School analyzes this same idea. They studied two separate years of data for 20,000 employees. They concluded that “greater levels of control over work tasks and schedule have the potential to generate significant benefits for the employee, which was found to be evident in the levels of reported well-being."
This study further clarified that men and women in the workplace tend to view autonomy differently.
Women in the workforce desired flexibility over time and location that allowed them to keep up with their family commitments as they pursued their careers. On the other hand, men gave more attention to tasks, task order, and the pace of work. Both should be considered when you offer autonomy in the workplace.
5. Communicate with Your Employees
Finally, we come to perhaps one of the most critical steps you should take to keep your employees engaged: communication.
When we say to communicate, we mean doing so with honesty and transparency. During uncertain times, your employees look up to you to address their concerns. Not doing so can only heighten panic and stress in the workspace. By keeping them in the dark, you will be letting their imagination run wild, most likely coming to the worst of conclusions. For example, if an employee fears layoff, it will significantly impact their performance. You should keep your employees aware of how things proceed with all integrity. Today's workforce values (and expects) honest communication from their leaders.
You should also encourage your employees to reach out and come to you with any concerns or questions. If your employees are uncomfortable stepping forward, you should also allow them to submit their questions anonymously for you to answer. Moreover, you should try to address these concerns face to face for a more authentic delivery. Making the time to answer your employee's concerns will help improve employee engagement and, once again, boost your employee's morale.