Increasing Employee Performance in an Economic Downturn

Let’s face it, today you probably have less people working for you than you did this time last year. Times are tough right now. Unemployment is over 9%. All you hear on the radio and on the nightly news is how bad the economy is. Well there are pockets of positive … signs that things are getting better. And I much like you want to be ahead of the competition when we get out of this “Economic downturn”. 

More than likely you are seeing a few things in your business because of this economic downturn. A decrease in the number of employees you have in your shop and this challenging economy can lead to:

A decrease in morale, because of uncertainty and the economy.
An increase in the amount of work your employees have to do.

There is a solution to these challenges that if you implement today you can pull yourself out of this downturn on top.

A Decrease in Morale – Morale…the silent and not so silent killer

Employees are on edge. With the down turn in the economy it’s likely that your organization has had to do some downsizing. Millions of organizations have. What we often don’t hear is the negative effects of layoffs on morale and the productivity of the remaining employees. 

According to a recent CareerBuilder survey:

30% of employees say they are burned out.
34% of workers who kept their jobs report they are working longer hours and more weekends.

As a result, management is responsible for reenergizing the employees and helping them cope with the changes.

Additionally, employees need help managing stress. Not only are they affected at work, but the recession has likely impacted their home life as well as spouses have lost jobs, stress of the financial markets, etc. And the media certainly isn’t helping by trying to scare the bejesus out of you each day. These challenges can lead to turnover, which can be very expensive for companies. I worked with a company recently that calculated it cost them $ 30k when an employee left and needed to be replaced. This loss of productive time and resources required to get the new employee up to speed is a killer in most organizations. Limiting that unproductive time and high expense should be a focus on many organizations.

Employees feel more stress and overworked. Training during these times is the key to keeping morale up and employees motivated. The American Society of Training and Development says that traditionally companies will spend more than $ 134 Billion on training. That equates to about $ 1103 per employee per year in most companies and in the Fortune 500 we see that yearly spending increase to $ 1609 per employee. How much more could you get from your employees with that kind of investment in their future?

So what can you do to increase employee morale?

Communicate and Stay Positive. It is very important to motivate employees by making sure they know they are a valuable resource. Make sure they know they are still needed and valued. Be sincere. Let them know that you understand this is a difficult time. Communicate clearly with a well thought out message letting the employees know what is going on and what is expected.
Reward and Recognize Performance. This is a great time to institute or revive an employee recognition program. Make sure you talk to your employees and understand what is important to them in a recognition program. Also make sure you know how they want to be recognized. Try to publicly recognize people for their work, if that’s what they want. Recognition doesn’t have to be expensive, just sincere. Some of the best recognition programs that I have seen are free. 
Don’t Tolerate Poor Performers. Just because times are tough, don’t tolerate sub par performance. Employees will see your change in the standard. This could lead to resentment from employees who are really working hard. In these times it is important to set realistic goals for your teams and hold them accountable. Ensure you celebrate wins frequently and set smaller more frequent goals.
Don’t Change Your Management Style. Just because things are challenging doesn’t mean you should change how you manage your team (unless of course you manage them poorly). Recently I read a quote that I think sums this up nicely. “Don’t forget that how well you manage (or how your organization treats people) in tough times sends a powerful message – that may well matter when times get better. Act accordingly.” Dr Allen, University of Western Ontario psychology professor.
An Increase in the amount of work your employees have to do. Didn’t Johnny used to do this?

Employers have fewer resources in their business, but often times, there isn’t less work to do. According to a recent CareerBuilder survey:

47% of workers reported that they have taken on more responsibility because of a layoff within their organization.
37% say they are doing the work of two people.

This is an excellent opportunity to provide training to the team to help them focus on the top priorities. Ask lower level employees to step up and show what they are compatible of. Training your employees to be more efficient will help them increase productivity. During an economic downturn, budget constraints often hinder our ability to hire new employees even when it’s really needed. This is a great opportunity to invest in your current team of resources and determine who is capable of learning some new skills.

So what can you do to ensure you get the most out of your employees:

Set Clear Objectives. Make sure your team knows what is important. Setting clear objectives can help them prioritize their work and make a much more manageable experience.
Share Work Fairly. It is critical to share work evenly across the organization. Managers tend to continue to assign new projects to the people that are the hardest workers. Thus giving them more work and in turn setting them up for burnout. 
Ask Employees to Take on More. This is great, but you have to set them up to succeed. It would be like asking your barber to cook you a gourmet dinner, he could do it, but if he didn’t have the proper training more than likely you would not get what you wanted.
Cross Train. This is a great opportunity to cross train your team. The employees will like the challenge of learning other areas of the business and will feel more valuable to the organization. Be careful to not just add when you are cross training but truly give the employee time to learn the new task, by pulling things off their plate to ensure they are not learning in addition to all of their other work.

What would it do for your business if you could get one more sale per person, or build one more client relationship per person?  SABUNG AYAM