When the economy is creaking and business is suffering, maintaining and increasing employee engagement levels is a challenging task. The business narrative will naturally be based upon a negative message where cost pressure and declining profitability equate to pay freezes, redundancies, and efficiency measures.
An employee relationship with its employer is based upon a number of key fundamental foundations: primarily remuneration and job security. So, when the business narrative dictates that cost pressure will affect the ability to reward and provide security; the natural reaction from an employee perspective is to become ‘dis-engaged’.
That is why getting your messaging right in these challenging times is essential. In addition to your messaging, it is also vital that you consider alternative engagement initiatives that can supplement the negativity of an uncertain economy.
A strong culture is a key to getting employees to ‘buy in’ to decision making. A culture that is built upon conversation and two way communication is better equipped to maintain engagement levels when times are hard.
The reason why is simple: all organisations are on a journey, and the key to high engagement is ensuring that employees understand that journey, and have the opportunity to feed in to direction. If you give your employees a voice, then you are setting a strong cultural foundation to maintain high engagement through good and bad times.
Here are three tips for maintaining and increasing engagement in a difficult economy:
Be open and transparent when communicating: Instead of using an email update full of corporate jargon to deliver a difficult message consider using a webcast and town hall briefs. Consider the employee perspective and talk to your audience form that viewpoint. By being open, and delivering difficult messaging face2face it allows employees to ask questions and understand the rationale of decision making. However unpopular a decision; providing context and leadership can actually increase engagement if employees feel “we are all in this together”.
Consider using CSR as an engagement tool: I have written a blog on the effectiveness of CSR as an engagement tool in economic turbulence. CSR can be an under rated tool to increase engagement. Community programmes and charity events are fantastic tactical tools to drive engagement. A strong CSR policy can be delivered at little cost; and the impact on engagement can be significant.
Encourage innovation and link to reward: In a volatile economy innovation is essential. Innovation opens up ideas to new profit streams and efficiency. Some organisations believe ‘innovation’ is getting your top managers into a room for a brain storming session. Why not think beyond your top people? Employees are the heart of any business; they are an untapped resource of ideas and innovation. Create an innovation group to collate and consider ideas: link it to reward and the opportunity to get involved with a project that progresses somebody’s idea. Encouraging your employees to innovate and giving them an opportunity to contribute is a powerful engagement driver.