Many people have noticed a general pessimism in the workplace these days. As the economy continues to struggle for its recovery, many have lost their jobs, while even more have watched as others have been trimmed from the ranks. There's no question that losing one's job is traumatic, but does anyone give much thought to those left behind?
Studies have shown that when unemployment is as high as it is right now and layoffs are commonplace, it can seriously damage employee morale. When people are constantly waiting for the axe to fall, so to speak, they often mentally "check out" from their jobs. This is bad news for employers who are desperately trying to find new ways to remain profitable. As an owner or manager of a business, it's your job to not only motivate employees, but to also reassure them during uncertain times. Failing to do this can create employees with a lack of the trust, motivation and enthusiasm necessary for your business to be successful.
You might be wondering how it's possible to nurture your employees' sense of security when you personally are feeling unsure. Ironically, this is exactly the best place to start. Begin by communicating openly with employees that yes, this is a difficult time and there are a lot of question marks about the future. Let them know you understand their fears and anxieties with regard to their job security. Then, be honest about what you know. If it's true that you have been considering the possibility of letting some employees go, explain the rationale and then promise to be forthright and transparent about your plans going forward. For many, it's the "waiting for the other shoe to drop" that is sucking their positive energy. If everyone knows the score, you can build on that "we're in this together" vibe.
You can also create incentives to re-energize employees. Let them know that individuals who are the most productive and/or provide the best customer service will be rewarded. These rewards do not have to be monetary. They could be in the form of some extra time off, or an "Employee of the Month" award. Little gestures of gratitude and appreciation mean a lot.
The biggest threat to workplace morale is secrecy. When employees feel they have no idea where the company is going and/or their employer is deliberately withholding the truth about the state of the business, it breeds mistrust and uncertainty; not the right ingredients for a positive and motivated workforce.
We're all hoping 2010 will turn things around for the rental industry - and the economy in general - but we can't get there if the workforce has "checked out." We need everyone to stay in the game in order to score a win.