Sustaining Employee Engagement thru the Downturn
Have you ever noticed how people respond to a crisis? They rise to the occasion. They engage each other. They put their best foot forward. It happened in New York after the terrorist attacks on September 11th. It happened in businesses across the globe when the recession started. Employees rallied to support their companies and their teams. They engaged. For a while.
Then what happened?
It happened slowly at first. Enthusiasm waned. Things reverted to normal; in many cases employees became even less engaged than before the recession hit. A survival mood set in. “Don’t rock the boat.” “Protect your own job; little else matters.”When that mood becomes permanent, your organization gets stuck in a rut. A rut dug by employee disengagement and fortified by fear. What can a leader do? How can you keep employee engagement high when crisis turns slowly into the new normal?
If you are in a leadership role, here are 4 things you can do:
1. Communicate. Often. And never stop communicating. Even bad news is better than no news. Remember, your job is to think about the big picture AND to communicate your vision of that picture to your people. Don’t be like the chief marketing officer who once told his ad agency that it was time to pull their latest ad off the television because viewers were tired of seeing it. And it hadn’t even aired yet! He had seen it so many times during development that he was tired of it. And he mistook his own fatigue of the message for others’. Just because you think you have communicated something important to your employees, say it again. Staying informed invites being engaged.
2. Tell the truth. Candor goes a long way. Truth builds trust. And trust leads to employee engagement. Employees will give their best for leaders they can trust.
3. Ask for help. After three years of recession, nobody knows all the answers any more. If you think your job is to have all the answers, you are a very lonely leader. When you don’t have the answers, ask for help. Your people may surprise you. Engaged employees feel empowered to speak up and offer up fresh, new ideas. One fresh idea may be all that’s needed to jumpstart your team.
4. Find ways to celebrate. Even in a bad economy, there are things to get excited about. Employees still have birthdays; they still achieve milestones in their lives and at work. People get married; kids go off to school. Your company lands a new contract or ships a new product. Somebody gets an award. Honor these moments. Celebrate the little things and bigger things will come along.
Keep these four tips in the front of your mind. Put them into play. Stay at them and you’ll sustain your employees’ engagement through even this lengthiest of downturns.
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