Improving morale Featured

5:52am EDT June 30, 2004
An unusual thing happened in large companies across the nation as they attempted to downsize into profitability -- the workers and bosses remaining after the layoffs bonded.

According to findings in Randstad North America's Employee Review, while overall employee morale has remained stagnant, employees and employers in large companies report improved morale. In September 2002 and March 2003, 57 percent and 58 percent respectively of employees in all size companies said morale where they work was excellent or good.

But in large companies, while only 43 percent of workers said morale was high in September 2002, that number jumped to 53 percent in 2003. Similarly, the number of large company employers who say morale at their companies is good has jumped to 78 percent, a 10-point increase from 2002.

After all the downsizing and turmoil large companies have undergone, they seemed to have weathered the storm fairly well, with more employees believing their bosses are loyal to them. While only 25 percent of large company employees said the boss was loyal to them in September 2002, that number jumped to 36 percent last year.

So what's going on?

The research seems to show that, in large companies, at least, a pessimistic outlook about the economy has started to wane. Employers said that now is a good time for their employees to make certain changes and requests.

Big company execs are more likely than their counterparts at small or medium-sized companies to say now is a good time for workers to:


* Look for a new job with more interesting or fulfilling work


* Look for new job opportunities in their current area


* Ask for additional help to lighten their workload


* Ask for better benefits


* Ask for a raise


What a difference a year of struggle and turmoil can make. Large company bosses now express greater empathy for their workers.

All workers today say it's important to feel like they are part of a family at work. Surprisingly, the number of managers at large companies who agree with the importance of making employees feel like part of the family has taken a big jump, up to 82 percent in 2003 from 49 percent in January 2002.

When the boss recognizes the need of employees to feel valued, important and part of the team, they show workers greater respect. They realize that when the team is smaller, each member has to pull his or her own weight and then some.

And so savvy managers communicate regularly and often about the state of the company and the outlook for the future. They keep their people in the loop, and their people reward them with higher levels of productivity and enhanced loyalty to the company.

Business psychologists recognize the impact corporate upheaval and layoffs can have on a work force. Those employees spared the axe often bounce among feelings of elation that they still have a job, sadness for colleagues who didn't fare as well and fear that they, too, could end up in the unemployment line.

By now, many companies have weathered the storm and improved by design or necessity operational efficiencies. Cuts have been made and new work teams formed.

There's a renewed recognition that workers and managers must work together and rely on each other in order to reach key business goals.

As Randstad North America's managing director of human resources, Gail Auerbach is responsible for recruitment and retention of the company's more than 2,000 employees in more than 500 locations in the U.S. and Canada. For more information about Randstad's 2003 Employee Review, visit Contact Auerbach at