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Increasing Employee Engagement & Productivity in the Current Economic Climate

In tough economic times, improving your employees’ morale and increasing their engagement and productivity is critical, as every resource counts and your employees can have a big impact on your customers’ experiences. But in times like these many business leaders wonder: how can we keep employees motivated, passionate and engaged – in other words, productive – in an environment where we’re asking them to do more with less and/or have recently had to downsize our company?

To help you get started, following are nine tips for increasing employee engagement and productivity in tough economic times:

1. Open up an Anonymous Feedback Channel to Help Gauge Employee Attitudes. This will help you get a better feel for what’s really going on in your company and what your employees think and feel about that, as well as the steps you can take to proactively address and resolve their concerns and/or issues.

2. Determine Why Your Employees are Emotionally Connected (or Disconnected) to You, and then Develop Programs in those Areas they Care about Most. In order to improve employee productivity and engagement, you need to know why employees are either emotionally connected or disconnected to your business. And it’s generally much more than salaries, training or benefits. For instance, what is it that makes them feel good about their work and/or the workplace? What do they care about most (e.g. more reward and recognition, training, etc.) By asking a few simple questions and listening to your employees, you’ll be able to get the insights you need to develop the type of programs that will make the biggest short- and long-term difference.

“There is a misconception that money is the biggest motivator,” said Dr. Gary Rhoads, Allegiance Engagement Expert. “In reality, employees are motivated by leaders that inspire and demonstrate true commitment to them and the company. The idea certainly contradicts conventional wisdom, but proves that companies have a great opportunity to improve engagement levels; beginning with listening to their employees.”

3. Help Employees Prioritize their Workloads – In tough economic times and especially after a layoff, employees often have as much or even more work to do than before. With so much to do and an increasing pressure on them to work smarter, harder and faster, it’s easy for employees to get discouraged. To offset this, help your employees prioritize tasks, determine which specific tasks would be best performed by which employees, and which tasks can either be eliminated or pushed off to a later date.

4. Retrain or Get Rid of Bad Managers – One bad manager can pollute multiple layers of an organization, and your most talented employees will be the first ones to leave in the face of poor management. To minimize their impact on your organization and/or employee morale, either retrain or get rid of bad managers.

5. Get Out and Talk to People – Employees make decisions about staying or leaving a company for a multitude of reasons – and their attitudes and emotions play major roles in those decisions. Therefore, during tough economic times, managers need to make more of an emotional connection with their employees by talking more to individual employees about their concerns and aspirations. “Sometime we forget that employees are human beings. They need to feel listened to and valued for the work they do,” said Rhoads. “By understanding employee attitudes and concerns and acting on what you hear, you’ll be able to earn the long-term loyalty and engagement of your employees, and create a more energized and productive workplace – and that leads to a better bottom line.”

For more information and ideas on how to increase employee engagement and loyalty, read the Allegiance white paper titled “The Top 11 Ways to Increase Your Employee Loyalty.”

(1) Employee Engagement: The Key to Realizing Competitive Advantage. Development Dimensions International
(2) Leveraging Employee Engagement for Competitive Advantage: HR’s Strategic Role. HR Magazine (March 2007)
(3) Engage Employees and Boost Performance. Hay Group. (2001)