We’re witnessing the revamping of the world economy. And it’s happening at the speed of 24 hour news channels right before our eyes. Unprecedented.
Unfortunately, the small business owner is squeezed as long-time clients cut costs and no longer “require” your services. How many of these losses can a small company absorb? Not many. Too many and jobs will have to be cut.
Nothing undermines company morale more than layoffs. That constant fear of “I’m next” reduces productivity. You might even lose some of your best employees to other companies if those high-level managers take a pro-active approach and leave before the layoffs begin.
Maintaining staff morale amidst an office massacre is impossible. Watching co-workers clean out their desks after years of faithful employment is gut wrenching for the company owner, the remaining employees and, of course, the packer.
However, there are things you can do to lessen the impact of this economic slowdown and maybe save a job or two in the process. At the very least, these steps will help maintain company morale after the massacre.
1. Be truthful.
No information is worse than bad news. Rumours fly, making their way from one end of the office to the other. Talk to your employees honestly. Describe the company’s condition and what you and management intend to do about it.
2. Be human.
It’s hard to believe but there are loads of news reports to back up the fact that employees are being laid off by email. I can’t imagine such insensitivity, nor can I imagine a better way to utterly destroy office morale.
If layoffs are necessary, do it privately, face to face, and offer whatever help you can – including a decent severance package. Even if it means you take a pay cut. The fact is, a good company owner is the first to take a pay cut. Lead by example.
3. Develop creative staffing solutions.
Two administrative assistant jobs have to be cut. Offer the employees the opportunity to job share. This gesture may make the difference between a dedicated staff that recognizes your commitment to them and a rabble outside your office door.
4. Cut costs, not jobs.
Go through the bills and see where the money is going. You’re bound to find a pile of possible cost savings.
For example, when was the last time you had your air-conditioning systems checked? You could save money on heating and cooling costs with a simple cleaning and tune-up – a one-time charge that keeps a long-time employee in place.
What other office expenses can be cut? Ask employees to clean their own work areas and cut the cleaning service. Most will be happy to help when you explain why.
Don’t be afraid to ask for help to save jobs. Most people will be happy to cut hours for a time if it keeps them and their friends employed. If you’re straight up and have the numbers to back it up, you can save jobs simply by asking all employees to make sacrifices.
Again, lead by doing.
5. Automate to increase productivity.
If your sales team spends 35% of its time on lead generation, automate the lead generation process. How? There are literally dozens and dozens of lead generation services that deliver qualified leads to your staff’s inboxes so these employees can be meeting with prospects rather than cold calling.
These services employ highly specialised techniques that target a specific industry or commercial sector. For example, insurance brokers can receive contact information on businesses and individuals who have opted in to receive information about related services.
6. Engage the entire staff.
Messages from on high to the workers on the floor do little to boost morale, especially in difficult times. It’s important that you, the company owner, open your door and your mind. Talk to the people who are actually doing the work and ask them to show you how they could do it better.
Then listen. Hard. You get the best advice there is, you encourage creative problem solving and you demonstrate your commitment to saving jobs by listening and implementing systems based on employee input.
Tough times require tough decisions.
You can maintain staff morale by showing the value of each employee, by encouraging employees to provide systems input, by cutting costs and spreading sacrifice across the entire staff.
©Michael Harrison 2008