It’s not easy for employees to hear that economic tough times mean they’re not getting a pay raise or that their jobs are being eliminated. Having to deliver the bad news may be almost as hard.
Stay positive when negative circumstances abound, and both you and the employees you’re disappointing will leave the encounter feeling better about yourselves and your organization.
Here are five ways to make the most of a difficult situation:
1. Spell out for employees the impact the economy is having on the organization. Don’t soft-pedal it. People cope better when they understand the reality of a situation than when they’re left to imagine the worst-case scenario. Explain the issues, how the organization will handle them and what the plan is for returning the company to profitability.
2. Ask employees to be part of the solution. Create a team atmosphere, and ask all team members to help the organization reach its goal of surviving the downturn. This turns a negative situation into a positive effort to achieve a joint goal.
3. Show empathy. If you do have to lay off employees, raise health care deductibles or cut bonuses, do it face to face and with compassion. Encourage managers to take the time to talk to employees and learn how the changes will affect each one. Give employees space during that conversation to express fears and frustration with the situation. Explain that the action isn’t the result of a personal failure on the employee’s part.
4. Encourage the employee to stay positive. Discuss the employee’s options for the future and explain how the organization can help. Examples: Some firms offer to help displaced employees find new jobs or train for new positions. Others can hire employees back as consultants, at least part time.
5. Create a culture that indulges employee passions. Example: Google, which enjoyed a hefty increase in quarterly profits recently despite a decline in “clicks” on advertising links, encourages its employees to spend some of their work time fleshing out their own ideas for the company. When employees are allowed to innovate, they feel empowered. That gives the job value beyond a paycheck.
The pride and passion with which HR does its work can go a long way toward keeping up employee morale during tough times.
Jeff Rogers is owner of The Corporate Jester, a Chicago-based strategic communications company. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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