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Employee Engagement in Uncertain Times

The current economic woes, which started with the recession of 2008, have created an uncertain future for employers and their employees the world over. These uncertainties are coming from a variety of sources. There are the Euro Zone problems which threatens the financial stability of the world. There is the USA’s inability to improve the pace and strength of its economic recovery and in Canada; all levels of government are talking about austerity and cut backs and the private sector ,with notable exceptions in the West, seems equally nervous about investing in staff and equipment.

In Ontario the private sector’s job recovery is very slow and there is a great fear of future job losses. In the public sector, governments’ cutbacks will probably produce a net reduction in the workforce.

Collective bargaining in both the private and public sectors will be marked by employers seeking significant monetary and work rule concessions and unions resisting strongly any negatively perceived changes for their members.

Is it any wonder that amidst all this turmoil and uncertainty that employees’ commitment to their employer’s strategic goals and objectives is precarious at best if not completely undermined? How does an organization maintain the highest level of commitment in these frightening and uncertain times?

Following are six areas that an organization can address if commitment is to be maintained and, if possible, enhanced:

1. Communications

Communicating what is going on in an open, honest and timely manner is a must. All too often leaders want to wait until the news improves. Even if those intentions are well meaning, such as, not wanting to create undue anxiety, they are wrong because it doesn’t show respect for the members of the workforce and their ability to process news, even bad news.

From this premise, when solid news of potential negative consequences arise communicate it to staff by being factual and stating the potential impact on the organization. If the impact is uncertain and it is being further analyzed, say so in clear and concise language.

Keep on communicating throughout all phases of the crisis regardless of the anxiety it might create. Not having the proper information creates a vacuum which is then filled with rumours which generally paint pictures of circumstances far more dire than the pending reality which, in turn creates more intense anxiety and further undermines trust in, and commitment to, the employer.

2. Emphasize the Values

Throughout the crisis take advantage of every interaction with staff from formal communications to staff meetings to town hall meetings, by constantly emphasizing the vision, mission and values of the organization. It is important that the workforce stay focused on what they are doing and why. Living the values in a demonstrable way is a must. Any shortcuts in this regard will create mistrust. Give employees the opportunity to express their concerns and most importantly, give continuous feedback on all suggestions and ideas put forward by staff.

3. Empower People

To put it simply, make staff feel that they are part of the solution. There is no definitive list of actions to be taken because each enterprise is unique and requires individualized actions. However, following are some ideas that work in the right circumstances:

Posted Sep 6/19 by Pesce & Associates