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Workplace Happiness

February 10 2009 - A report from Strategic Connections Inc. highlights the negative impact on employee morale and engagement associated with the current economic downturn and suggests strategies to help organizations retain the integrity of their workforce in preparation for improved conditions.

Ken Milloy, president and senior strategy consultant said:

"The recent downturn in the economy is having negative effects on engagement levels and this is something every business should be concerned with. While engaged employees won't make the recession disappear, they will certainly help companies get through it with far more success than would otherwise be possible."

The report acknowledges that employers appreciate that individuals who are engaged in their work can significantly outperform those who are not. Extensive previous research has identified benefits such as increased service and customer loyalty, improved individual performance and reduced costs associated with safety and absenteeism.

Ken Milloy commented:

"A number of CEO's and senior leaders have recently told me that they have noticed a visible decline in the levels of enthusiasm and engagement among their staff."

Interviews with business leaders and analysis of published research confirms that the deteriorating economic climate is associated with a reduction in engagement levels with some data indicating that twice as many companies are negatively affected than positively.

Ken Milloy added:

"Over the past few years, companies have made substantial investments in developing engaged workplaces. The idea is quite simple - an engaged employee will have an increased desire, willingness and ability to go the extra mile, will speak more positively of the company and will be more than willing to stay and help out when times get tough."

The report found that organizations have tended to reduce investment in engaging their employees and are less open with them leading to increased speculation and anxiety exacerbated by media reports of company failures and unemployment. It is argued that focusing on key areas during the current economic crisis will improve the organization's survivability and help prepare for the upturn.

Ken Milloy suggests the following strategies:

  1. Employers should ensure they have a clear and compelling direction or story to share with their staff. This story needs to include a bit on what the company has to be proud of, a summary of what is happening, a concise picture of where it's headed and how it will get there with everyone playing their part. This story must be shared widely, repeatedly and consistently.
  2. Use all lines of communication with openness and honesty at the heart of all interactions. While many employers keep the bad news away from their staff, the ones that perform well share it, discuss it and seek ways to move forward. Keeping the bad news quiet rapidly increases the rumor mill, negative attitudes and an overall feeling of dispiritedness that hinders all areas of individual and business performance.
  3. Ensure managers and front line leaders actively share and discuss news and information with staff and recognize people for their efforts. They should focus on behaviours and say thanks to those who exhibit the right ones. Of course, managers can only do this if they are engaged and able to model the desired behaviours.
  4. Continue to focus on careers, growth and development. By focusing on career development, companies will send a clear message to employees that they are moving forward and very much want them as a part of that future.

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