Uncertain and turbulent economic conditions frequently result in organisations reducing headcounts, deferring training and staff development expenditure, cancelling celebratory events and failing to prioritise strategy retreats and staff briefings. Management can tend to limit their contact and direct support for employees, choosing instead to lock themselves in meetings, intent on fixing problems. Clearly, immediate problems must be addressed, but prioritising crisis management at the expense of people management can be extremely counterproductive.
Communication breakdowns and disconnects between management and staff at any time can have long term, negative consequences. Declining staff engagement typically results in tangible reductions in staff performance and revenues. Organisations often lose top talent at such times. When the economy inevitably turns and increased capacity is required, these organisations can find themselves worse off than when they entered the crisis. It can take years to undo the damage. Some companies never regain their competitive position having ceded their advantage to their competitors who took a longer term view.
Opportunities are available
Challenging times create a unique opportunity for management to build employee loyalty that will endure long after the crisis has passed. With careful and deliberate management, staff will know how much they are valued by the way they are treated in uncertain times. No amount of talk or action after the crisis can compensate for perceptions of inadequacy at the time. As the world experiences the current uncertainty and economic turbulence, astute management will regard this as a significant people opportunity.
The following key reminders will foster engagement now and contribute significantly to your organisation’s success once prosperous, optimistic times return.
- Regularly communicate with employees on the performance of your organisation. Provide confidence in the organisation and its leadership. Share challenges where action is required by staff.
- Work hard at creating development opportunities for quality employees. Fill key positions quickly.
- Celebrate achievements. Take the hard decisions according to economic realities but create reasons to still have fun at work!
- Show genuine interest and concern for the needs of employees.
- Share the rationale for decisions with staff. It is easy for them to misinterpret things if they are not kept informed.
- Use quieter periods to work on the operational efficiencies in the business.
Remember that staff continually observe leaders. They will assess whether the ideals espoused by the organisation are truly the values it lives by in difficult circumstances as well as good times!