There is no doubt that employees are feeling the stress of the economic downturn. They may be experiencing their own financial issues or are living in fear of losing their jobs. Consider how you can keep them motivated now so you can retain them – their expertise is an asset upon which you can grow your business out of the recession. Here are a few ideas to consider for improving morale, loyalty, and productivity so you will be ready for the economic rebound.
1. Acknowledge your employees personal life events: birthdays, anniversaries, births, deaths, graduations, etc. Let them know their life and personal well-being is important to you.
2. Have a staff field trip. Go bowling. Have a picnic in the park. Rent a skating rink.
3. Create a “volunteer day.” Provide time off for your employee to volunteer at the charity of their choice or sponsor a team event such through organizations such as Habitat for Humanity or Relay for Life. Your employees will be refreshed and energized by the ability to contribute to a worthy cause.
4. Create a training and development plan for your employees. Low-cost training is available via the web with webinars and web-based conferences which are often recorded and archived. Give each employee a training allowance of time and/or money to spend on virtual or live events.
5. Don’t’ stop there! Where possible, allow your employees to apply new skills on the job. Can they complete a new project using skills or technology they learned? Empower them beyond the limits of their job description and prepare them for the next level of promotion.
6. Do you need a retention package for key employees? Consider retention bonuses if employees are at risk of resigning especially if you want to secure their employment until after your business undergoes transition.
7. Reevaluate compensation packages if economically feasible. Consider whether your compensation package is reflective of the market wages and compensation practices. If not, develop a plan to transition to a more competitive package.
8. Create a formal incentives program that rewards performance based upon achieving a desired outcome. Sales professionals are generally compensated based upon a combination of salary and bonuses. Don’t stop at your sales staff! If you have key business priorities that lead to bottom line results, let your staff share in the profits.
9. What are their life & career goals? Sit down 1 on 1 with your staff and ask them. Turn off the blackberry/IPhone and just listen. Develop a plan to further their goals through additional responsibility, mentoring, projects and training.
10. Involve your staff in creating a new vision for the business. What are their thoughts on how you can improve processes and grow markets? Whether you ask in a 1 on 1 session or via a formal planning process with the team, employees become more invested in business strategy which they help formulate.
11. Consider flexible work schedules and tele-commuting options. Does your business structure allow employees to work from home? Investigate cloud computing options to enable a virtual office. Begin with document sharing and collaboration, web scheduling, and web conferencing applications and investigate whether your mission critical applications provide a cloud-based solution.
12. Say thank you! It is such a simple and easy thing to do but it means so much to employees when their work has been appreciated.
Be careful with incentive programs that involve goods and services with the company name imprinted on it – unless it is a cash debit card with the company logo, your well-meaning attempt at a reward may end up in a garage sale. Some of the best incentives I ever received were: time off, trips, cash bonuses and tickets to local events. I am also a big fan of “development opportunities” such as training and special projects but every employee is different.
The savvy business owner who inspires loyalty recognizes that each employee has a “currency” – a motivating inducement with value to him/her for its appropriateness and personal meaning. What is your employees’ currency? Is it time off? More money? Is it more responsibility or authority?
Let’s face it. These ideas reflect good leadership practices whether we are in an economic downturn or not but we often need to be reminded of the obvious when business is slow. Making an extra effort to improve employee incentives will pay dividends as your staff is motivated and inspired to assist your business attain new heights when business is booming.