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Keeping Employees Happy During Tough Times Will Keep Them in Place During Good Times

Posted by NEHRA  February 19, 2010 09:00 AM

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Take it from us – headhunters who see your employees looking for new jobs – there are many things you can do to make them want to stay. And, it’s not as hard as you think.

It’s no surprise that during these difficult economic times, employees are being asked to pick up extra work because staff has been cut, yet many have not received raises, or worse, have taken salary cuts. This difficult situation has left many employees feeling overworked, underpaid and underappreciated. Yet most are hesitant to leave a secure job during a recession no matter the level of stress. However, that doesn’t mean they aren’t thinking about it now – and won’t act when the economy rebounds. So, how does a company keep employees happy during this turmoil and increase its success at keeping them in place once things improve? Winter, Wyman, the largest staffing firm in the Northeast, provides companies with insider knowledge on how to keep your employees satisfied.

Attention is the best tool for retention, and a company that pays attention, respects and listens to their talent is way ahead of the game when keeping employees from looking for other jobs. A company’s core values, culture, open communication with the staff, and positive attitude keep employees engaged – and in their seats – no matter the market conditions. Here’s how they do it:

  • Know Who You Are from Day One and Stay That Way: A healthy corporate culture is something that is built over time but begins on day one. A company should never change aspects of the core values because of economic times. These core values need to be decided upon from the start of the company and followed diligently, so employees feel secure in knowing what the company values. For example, if a core value is to support employees’ career paths and the economy has forced a cutback in training and development opportunities, find alternative methods to educate your staff. Start peer learning and mentorship programs; establish a brown bag, learn-at-lunch initiative taught by managers and in-house specialists; explore online opportunities; or band together with business partners to train each other’s staffs.
  • Ask Employees for Their Help: Keeping the company happy, profitable and on track isn’t a one-way street. A company has to have a process in place where all employees feel comfortable in making constructive suggestions to improve the organization. Employees want to be part of the solution, to have their opinions and work valued, and to truly make a difference in the company’s direction and strategy.

    If you don’t have a confidential suggestion box (tangible or virtual), make one. Or survey your company. You never know where the next great idea for revenue generation, expense reduction or workplace improvement will come from. As an example, one company had eliminated Casual Fridays when they moved to a year-round business casual policy. After a layoff, an employee suggested that casual day be reinstated. It was and the feedback to management was instant and overwhelmingly positive. This example shows that ideas to increase employee happiness can be low-cost (or free!) but must be centered on what employees want.

  • The Good, The Bad and the Ugly – Have Open Communication No Matter What: Many companies believe that ‘no news is good news,’ but this is not true if you want to keep your employees loyal. If a company does not share the bad information as well as the good, then there becomes a vacuum. If it’s not your message employees are getting, then it often becomes the message of disgruntled co-workers. Open communication helps cut down on office gossip and speculation, which are often the causes of employees leaving companies during a downturn or change in business. No one wants to be caught off-guard, especially in their career. Make sure your organization puts a priority on top-, senior- and mid-level management communication and ensure it stays that way no matter the economic condition.

    Also, conduct quarterly company meetings, weekly manager meetings, and have senior management team members meet one-on-one with every employee at least once a year. If it’s cost prohibitive to meet face-to-face because of company size or geographic disparity, use the power of technology to hold an online, all-hands-on-deck meeting. Control the company message by providing it.

  • Talent Identification – Find Them and Keep Them Happy: Don’t assume that when the job market is tight that companies aren’t hiring – and aren’t looking at your top players. If you haven’t identified your key employees, then you may lose them to the competition. Make sure that your key people are being talked to, are engaged, happy and part of the solution. Ask targeted employees for their input and provide them interesting projects to keep them feeling engaged.
  • It is Better to Give Than to Receive – Get Staff Involved in Volunteering: Today’s employee wants a company that is involved in its community and has a ‘heart.’ Offer your staff the opportunity to volunteer a few hours a week or month for one of the company’s charitable organizations (or let employees vote on the cause). Employees develop pride for their company and have expanded opportunities for team building through community outreach. Retention is much easier when people have developed deep relationships with their colleagues and working together to help the greater good is a great way to further these friendships.

Author Biographies:
David Sanford is Executive Vice President, Business Development for Winter, Wyman and oversees the firm's consultative selling, new account development and customer relations. Previously, Dave served as Executive Vice President, Client Services and Managing Partner of the Human Resources division. Dave first joined Winter, Wyman in 1986 as a recruiter in the Sales & Marketing specialty area. Prior to Winter, Wyman he held senior management positions with Wang Laboratories, BankBoston and Doubleday Publishing. Dave is a graduate of Michigan State University.

Michelle D. Roccia is Senior Vice President of Corporate Organizational Development and is responsible for developing Winter, Wyman’s organizational and talent management strategies, including training and development programs for all levels of the organization. She also oversees the company’s human resources function and employee relations programs. Michelle has over 20 years of senior human resources experience, including in-depth knowledge of organizational development, employee relations, staffing, benefits, training, compensation and performance management. Prior to joining Winter, Wyman, Michelle was Vice President of Human Resources at Authoria. She has held similar senior HR roles at Centive, Inc., the Boston Stock Exchange and Kurzweil Applied Intelligence. Michelle is a member of the Northeast Human Resources Association (NEHRA) and Society for Human Resources Management (SHRM) and attended Bentley College in Waltham, Massachusetts.

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About NEHRA - The Voice of HR Featuring articles and resources for Human Resources / HR professional and hiring managers from the Northeast Human Resources Association (NEHRA).

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