Keep employees motivated Featured

7:00pm EDT December 26, 2008

Keeping employees motivated is always a challenge, and even more so during difficult economic periods. If employees are walking around the company in fear of losing their jobs, their productivity and morale are bound to suffer.

“As with any type of change, experiencing a variety of emotions is part of the process,” says Barbara Costa, senior lecturer/adjunct faculty member, who teaches human resources courses at Fontbonne University. “Recent studies of various organizations have shown that during times of change there are extremely higher stress levels, productivity declines, and there is less focus on goals and objectives. It is critical that there is a flow of communication with employees to assist in any way you can to minimize the uncertainty and drop in morale. In addition, you should have plans in place to ensure that everyday tasks are being completed while changes are occurring.”

Smart Business asked Costa for additional ways that managers and employees can ride out the current economic storms.

Why is good communication important during times like these?

The worst action to take is to avoid the issue. Make sure to keep your employees apprised of all news, both good and bad. Employees who hear negative news about the company on television or in the newspaper or on the Internet before they hear it from you will often become very demoralized. It’s best to be honest. Keep in mind, however, that these issues are very sensitive and saying the right thing does not always make a difference, so you can’t always take negativity personally. The best you can do is be honest, open and encouraging, determine what resources are available to employees, offer those resources and make sure employees have access to them.

How can companies help employees who will be let go?

This is a difficult situation for anyone; however, the key is to talk through the issues to help the employee work through ptions for the future. It is important to provide the employee with any resource numbers or information from your benefits or human resource departments so that if there are questions they can be addressed with the appropriate individuals.

In today’s business world, many organizations both large and small work to help employees build for the future through saving plans. At the time of hire, employees should be encouraged to contribute to these plans, which will help them in case they do become unemployed. In addition, many organizations offer training or tuition assistance to employees as part of their benefit packages. Managers need to encourage employees to take advantage of these options at all times. Education will help employees in their current jobs and also looks impressive on a resume.

Employees at all levels of the organization should continue to learn. When learning stops, not only does it impact the employee but the organization, as well. Learning is important to keeping a competitive edge on skills and will prepare employees for future situations. Skills-based employees continue to be the largest assets to organizations. Employees at all levels should continue to look at current and future trends in their specific job markets to determine what skills will be needed and make them a priority. Those additional skills are needed to set them apart.

What other things can employees at all levels do to keep themselves market ready?

Keeping resumes up to date, reflecting all current experience and education, is important, as is networking, both in and out of the current workplace. This helps provide an edge should someone decide to change careers or if there is a change in his or her business area. Professionals can join associations to keep abreast of how their particular profession is weathering the storm. Some examples would be the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) for human resource professionals or the Information Technology Association of America (ITAA) for IT professionals. These organizations are both local and national. They provide training and certification in some cases and supply information about trends and new challenges. Local chapters can assist with networking all around the world. The more anyone takes hold of his or her future, the less impact there will be if an unfortunate situation at the current workplace occurs.

Any final tips for achieving peace of mind?

It’s really important that all employees try to maintain a good balance of work, health and spirituality. These areas can help relieve stress and allow you to think clearly and quickly regarding any type of change that may be taking place. Balance will certainly keep you motivated to stay on top of your game during these times and prepare you to know when the right job opportunities are in front of you. Keep in mind that bad times don’t last forever; companies, as well as individuals, that can get through these challenging times will be in a good position when the economy rebounds.

BARBARA COSTA is a senior lecturer/adjunct faculty member at Fontbonne University. Reach her at or (314) 540-0630.