Managing Morale in a Weak Economy
During economic boom years, salary raises, bonuses, and other financial incentives come to be expected by employees as the norm rather than the exception. Managers use financial rewards to boost morale and motivate employees, at the same time increasing productivity and company loyalty.
For most businesses that has changed. Due to recent economic events companies are cutting expenses, laying people off, mandating pay cuts or outsourcing work to contractors. There are few or modest bonuses or salary increases. This economic reality presents problems for management.
How does management answer employees who expect rewards? How does management motivate individuals to maintain productivity and enthusiasm for their jobs when those jobs may be cut? Uncertainty and the lack of financial incentives can become disincentives to employees.
How do you maintain morale without the incentives?
Resource Society for Human Resources (SHRM)
- Communication - First, open communication is always a key to increased morale. It is important to acknowledge that this recent situation is difficult and challenging for everyone involved, a point that is more difficult to communicate if certain employees are getting increases when others are not. Therefore make every effort to ensure that salaries are fair and equitable, and that information about salary freezes is available.
It is helpful if management discusses the situation openly, encouraging discussion without becoming defensive. The management team can focus on ways the business is promoting its products and services to stay competitive. Employees can be encouraged to focus on the longer-range gains for the company and themselves. The message to employees is: view your current sacrifice as a stake in the future with this organization.
- Stress Teamwork - Employees should adopt the attitude that "what is good for the company is good for me." How is this accomplished? How do you encourage employees to "buy in" to the health and stability of the firm?
Ideally, your organization has always promoted a workplace culture of "co-workers" rather than a stark division between management and employee. Emphasize your shared purpose. Develop working teams where every function is understood to be valuable to the bottom line. Employees need to feel that they are "part of" the company, not "working for" the company.
Encouraging employees at all levels to become involved in decision-making will promote a sense of individual power and responsibility, two factors that increase motivation. Participation can be accomplished by holding team meetings regularly and asking for suggestions and feedback to improve the "bottom line".
- Recognize good work - Most employees say that feeling a part of something and having their contribution recognized is the most important motivator - recognition is a basic human need.
Recognition can be accomplished in a number of creative ways. Recent surveys show that sought-after rewards for top performance include tickets to top events, popular weekend family outings, and time-away to join special activities. Articles about employee contributions in the company newsletter and certificates of recognition are appreciated. Other perks which can be used as rewards without the offer of extra money include flexible work hours, extra vacation days, free "exercise" time during the work week and/or days to avoid long commutes by working from home. Reward good ideas at all levels of the organization - from support services to upper management.
Money is of significant importance, but when employees are happy, feeling like an important part of things, and feeling that their contribution is acknowledged, they will be more likely to feel and think, "What's good for my company is good for me."
Written by Trish Christian, M.N., RN, CS, CEAP
Edited by Dr. Helene King
and Mary Sue McClain