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Boost morale


April 7, 2010
by Noelle Stapinsky, Features Editor

Photo: iStockphoto

After a tough year of cost cutting, restructuring, wage freezes and layoffs, many companies are struggling to maintain healthy production with a reduced workforce.

Stress and distraction erodes productivity, but the right management strategies will cultivate a healthier, more positive work environment without breaking the budget.

“In tough times, organizations can’t invest a lot of money into programs to improve employee engagement,” says Vince Marsh, senior specialist at Deloitte Canada in Halifax. “Often, that’s not what people are looking for. They’re looking for a better relationship with their direct report [manager].”

Marsh says the relationship between management and employee is imperative to employee retention. “The number one reason people leave their jobs is because they [don’t] get along with their direct report or there’s something about their manager that makes the job difficult.”

So improving employee morale can be as simple as adjusting the way a company interacts with its people. Offering a transparent look at the state of the business and its objectives moving forward relieves stress and encourages staff to work as a team to achieve goals.

“In hard times, people need a clear view of where the problem is coming from,” says Marsh. “The problem might just be the economy, so I encourage people to make sure they’re clear about what they’re going to tell their people. Make it concise and externalize the problem.”

Management should remind employees about their strengths and attributes, and how their contribution helps the company get through tough times.

Listen to what people have to say and demonstrate appreciation for what they contribute to the company.

“People have stories and issues,” says Marsh. “Managers need to listen to them and stay engaged. A manager might hear something he or she doesn’t like, but don’t react: just listen.”

Winnipeg-based Allmar International, a national supplier of architectural hardware and building products, recruited Marsh to help enhance its employee engagement strategies.

Allmar wasn’t hit hard by the recession. With a log of contracts in place for large construction projects, business was steady during the past year, slowing only in the summer. But Allmar has branch offices across the country, and Richard Hutchings, the firm’s CFO, says the downturn was noticeable in Alberta and BC.

In Alberta, structure projects dropped with the price of oil. And the condo market ground to a halt in Vancouver and Victoria.