Without question, the past recession has hit many companies hard. But as business leaders struggling to keep our companies afloat, we sometimes forget that it’s been hard on employees as well, including those who managed to keep their jobs.
According to a survey conducted earlier this year by Kelton Research, today’s employees are feeling under-empowered, under-appreciated, demotivated, and overworked. In the six months prior to the survey:
- 68 percent had not received any useful feedback from their supervisors
- 82 percent had not established career goals with their supervisors
- 53 percent did not understand how their role contributed to company objectives
- 25 percent were given new job responsibilities outside of their primary skill sets
This does not sound like a motivated and contented workforce!
Even if your company managed to escape the worst of the layoffs and cutbacks, don’t assume that your workforce remains happy or motivated. People may still be grateful to have a job. But as the economy continues to improve and opportunities increase, “grateful to have a job” will not keep them from looking elsewhere.
Employees today hear an endless stream of negative messages about their plight in the world. Everywhere they turn, they hear about leadership failures, business failures, rising benefits costs, and jobs going overseas. If you’re not countering those messages with positive ones, people will buy into the negativity.
Add to this the fact that today’s younger generation of workers puts a high value on job mobility, and the time is ripe for the employment pendulum to swing back to the worker side. When the economy finally picks up steam again and employees begin to have options, don’t be surprised if some of your workers decide to jump ship.
A small amount of turnover can be a good thing, as it allows you to bring fresh energy and new ideas into the company. But the last thing you want at the beginning of a growth cycle is for your best performers to decide the time has come to work somewhere else.
How can you prevent these unwanted departures? By informing, inspiring, and engaging your people.
Inform. Regularly communicate the “why, what, and how” of your strategic plan. Then discuss and get clear on individual roles in meeting the goals necessary to achieve the plan. To feel informed, today’s employees need clarity on:
- The mission statement (why you exist)
- Guiding principles (how you will behave)
- Value propositions (what you offer to key stakeholders)
- Destination points (where you’re going)
- Strategic priorities (areas of focus for the organization)
- Key initiatives (what you will do to get there)
Employees always need to know these things. But after two years of tough times that have depleted their energy and motivation, they need to know them more than ever.
Inspire. Employees want to believe that their work makes a difference in the world. To inspire your people, share a compelling vision of what tomorrow looks like and how what you do will make the world a better place. Explain why you personally consider the destination compelling. What is it about where the company is going that excites you? Ask employees what the vision means to them, and share their responses via multiple channels. Share positive customer feedback. Give people reasons to feel good about what the company does. The ultimate goal is to get employees talking about what the mission and goals mean to them individually. The more they focus on these areas, the more likely you are to get buy-in and alignment.
Engage. To keep employees engaged, answer the question: why will we still win?
Get great at feedback. Visit with people throughout the year to make sure all individual goals remain aligned with company goals. Share stories of how teams are aligned and achieving goals. Highlight team accomplishments and link them to the strategy they support. To measure employee understanding, commitment, inspiration, and engagement, take quick surveys following team or company meetings. Solicit questions via email or intranet and address them in open forums. Publicly thank employees for raising the issues.
Remember that as a leader or manager, your behavior speaks much louder than your words. What are you doing (and not just saying) that communicates the importance of the company’s goals? What are you doing to get people feeling good about working for the company? What are you doing to get them feeling engaged and a part of the team?
The more your behavior aligns with what you’re saying, the more you will inform, inspire, and engage your employees. Start now, so that when the pendulum swings the other way, you’ll be one step ahead of your competition.