We recently asked a sample of our clients what their key challenge was at present. We received a variety of responses but there was a theme running through many of the comments; what can be done to re-energise the business following (or is it still during?) a period of downturn, cost-cutting and restructuring?
Several areas were mentioned:
- Re-building trust within the organisation
- Presenteeism: when, due to insecurity about their future job security, employees may be in work for more hours than is required, be reluctant to take holidays or come in even if they feel unwell.
- People being there in body but not in spirit. They may have switched off and, under other circumstances, they would have found another role but, in the current climate, there are not many job opportunities so they may feel stuck, resentful and frustrated. Woody Allen once said that 80% of success in life can be attributed to showing up – he has a point but this may not be the case during a downturn.
- The motivation of the survivors left in the business dropping as they buckle under the weight of absorbing additional responsibilities.
It is understandable that, following a period of uncertainty and cost-cutting, trust and morale is likely to drop significantly. So what can you do to improve this?
This is clearly not an easy nor a quick fix. It takes time, focus and effort. It takes those involved in the business to actually care about improving team spirit, employee engagement and morale and understanding that it is worth putting effort into this area. The thing is, it is worth the effort; not just to make employees happier and to create a positive culture (though, for me, this is a great reason to do it) but because happier employees are more productive which means better business results.
Here are a few simple steps to consider:
- Try to draw a line in the sand about what may have gone before. It can be destructive and time-consuming to keep dredging up the past and going back over well-trodden ground.
- Utilise an employee morale survey to understand the current feeling within the organisation…listen properly and then … (here’s the important bit) where possible, actually act on the results! Feedback to employees the steps you have taken. Evaluate and repeat as necessary.
- Arrange for all employees to have short 1 to 1’s with their managers: these should focus on a few important questions, the answers to these should enable positive steps to be taken for individuals and at a team and organisational level.
- Communicate as honestly and openly as you can about the present and the future.
- Arrange team sessions to develop and build your teams; these don’t have to cost much money… or, in fact, anything apart from time and a willingness to engage.
It can be all too easy to say, “… we just don’t have time for all this stuff – we’re too busy… especially now..”. However, in the words of Henry Ford, “If you always do what you’ve always done, you’ll always get what you’ve always got.” So, if you want to re-energise, boost morale and performance you may need to take a bit of time and do something different.
Director of People Solutions