'Celebrate and reward successes – even when times are hard'

How to instil a deeper sense of commitment in employees when morale is low

'Celebrate and reward successes – even when times are hard'

Communication is key to any employment relationship. But when morale is low during a recession, maintaining that connection between the organisation and the employees becomes even more vital, a top employment law expert advises.

“Communication should be ongoing – not just a one-off event,” says Scott Wilson, a partner at Duncan Cotterill and speaker at the HRD Employment Law Masterclass New Zealand this month.

“It should be more than just sending out emails or video messages to all staff,” he says in an exclusive interview with HRD.

READ MORE: COVID-19: How to boost staff morale

Given the unprecedented challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic, Wilson believes leaders are in a critical position to break down communication barriers and reach out to their people.

“Employers should talk to employees more casually, either one-on-one or in a small group situation, to encourage employees to be able to ask questions about their concerns,” he tells HRD.

As a lawyer, Wilson’s expertise includes navigating the tricky waters of corporate restructuring and redundancies, especially in difficult times such as a recession.

He shares his insight into the potential impact of the COVID-19 economic crisis – not only on New Zealand’s business climate – but also on organisational morale.

“In a recession, employees are more likely to stay in their jobs, even if they are unhappy. This, in turn, can result in employee unhappiness spreading further within the business,” Wilson says.

“Low morale is likely to lead to lower productivity and engagement by employees. This can result in both slower work and less accurate work, which can make a business less profitable regardless of the wider economic environment,” he says.

READ MORE: Low employee morale linked to lack of communication

When morale is low, how can employers instil a deeper sense of commitment in their staff? Wilson’s advice: “Celebrate and reward successes – even when times are hard.”

Providing your team with an avenue to publicly acknowledge their contribution can be just as powerful as any financial incentive to this end, he says.

Motivating staff will be crucial to steering ahead in the turbulent waters of this global crisis.

“Celebrating success and achievements can change employees’ perception of their importance to the business,” Wilson says. “Rewarding employees, and showing them that they are appreciated, will greatly improve morale. This reward doesn’t need to be financial.”

“Employers will need to be innovative, and it will be important that staff are given a voice in respect of initiatives. Improvements need not come at a financial cost,” he says.

Stay safe, stay up to date, stay compliant and receive essential legal insights. Join us at HRD’s Employment Law Masterclass on 17 and 18 June.

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