Staff morale not an area to scrimp

by HCA13 Oct 2011

As economic uncertainty continues to mount, some Australian employers are beginning to reflect on the strategies that worked, and didn’t work, during the GFC – and the word on the street is that a happy worker is a productive worker regardless of the economy.

And yet, according to finance and accounting recruitment specialist Robert Half, as tensions grow there is a tendency for employers to cut back on activities aimed at boosting morale, writing them off as a “non-essential” expense.

Andrew Brushfield, director Robert Half, said when the skills shortage was more acute at the beginning of 2011, employers ploughed resources into morale projects, yet such endeavors are now slipping away.

“Naturally employers are keen to hang on to their top performers when business is good, but it is equally important that they keep their teams motivated and engaged when the outlook is uncertain,” Brushfield said.

Accordingly, Brushfield added that it’s during the really tough times that staff morale needs the most attention, because personal financial concerns may be weighing heavily on employee confidence levels and productivity.

“In tougher times, it’s also tempting for bosses to assume that their staff members are happy to even have a job and wouldn’t consider moving. However, the most talented employees will always have options. Losing them can cause additional problems at a time when companies can least afford to let productivity and customer service slip,” Brushfield said.

Robert Half offered the following advice and top 5 tips for businesses about learning from the mistakes they made during the GFC; in particular, that keeping employees happy, motivated and productive should remain at the top of the agenda.

1. Be transparent: Talking openly with staff during challenging times can help people feel they have some control over the situation. By being as open as possible with staff, managers can make them feel more included, and also get some helpful ideas for the business.

2. Don’t blame those at the top: If you’re a middle manager who has to deliver bad news, you may be inclined to tell employees that you would have done things differently. While this may take the heat off, it sends a message that the company’s management is out of sync, which can be disconcerting for staff.

3. Remind staff about benefits packages:Few employees know how much their firm spends on benefits like health and well-being packages. If finances are being stretched, it can be reassuring to hear about benefits they have access to through their employer.

4. Incentivise employees: Cutting budgets shouldn’t mean cuttings rewards. There are plenty of low and no-cost incentives that bosses can use to ensure staff still feel valued. An afternoon off, praise at a meeting or a personal thank you note are all inexpensive ways of showing appreciation.

5. Think about the bigger picture: Profit isn’t the only thing that motivates employees.Meeting regularly with employees to talk about their jobs, what motivates them and facilitating their personal development are good ways of showing them there is a long-term vision for them within the organisation.

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