I think one of the biggest problems contributing to the angst in the workplace has been a result of the recent financial downturn. What has happened is that companies feeling the economic pressures have fallen into the all so common reactionary trap of making “knee jerk” reactionary decisions of cuts to staff, customer service and training. Unfortunately it’s these three critical areas that most often provide companies with their strategic advantages in the marketplace. I have always been in favour of efficiencies in the workplace regardless of economic cycles, but to arbitrarily cut the lean and attempt to justify it as trimming the fat creates a situation where people are overworked and underappreciated. In fact it can get even worse when the “fear mongering” messaging from senior management is “you can be on the chopping block next”. These poorly thought out decisions don’t build any sense of loyalty or confidence within the workforce. During the short term these toxic decisions may not immediately affect staff turnover because people may be residence to leave during economic uncertainty. Eventually the economy always bounces back, the labour market once again gets tighter, and the staff that where mistreated and have seen their colleagues let go will quickly seek other opportunities.
The good news is that it is not an expensive proposition to improve the overall morale of the workplace; in fact it is often the little things that make the difference. In my most recent book Hired 2.0 – Recruiting Exceptional Talent at the Speed of Light, I share the 10 most important employee experiences, and that employers who consistently provide positive employee experiences not only enjoy highly productive, happy and engaged teams but have a build in mechanism that provides a strategic advantage to not only survive but to thrive during economic downturns.
A smart place to start is to have an on-boarding process to welcome each new staff member. There is a tremendous amount of research that supports how we treat our new staff on the first five days on the job has a profound impact on how they feel about the job, their coworkers, manager and employer. These critical first few days on the job greatly impact the new hires productivity.
Other lower cost ways to increase job satisfaction and reduce future staff turnover is recognition and informal rewards. By taking the time to publicly praise people and acknowledge someone’s efforts in a positive sincere fashion, goes along way in any work environment. A simple, yet effective way to make people feel part of the team and appreciated is a Tim Horton’s type gift certificates. Keeping your people in the loop through open communications enhances the level of trust and respect within the team. On going investments in training, development, mentoring and succession planning not only help the individual become more productive but also communicate a very powerful message that the organization values the individual and expects them to be part of the team in the future.