Monday, October 12, 2009

Restoring Worker Confidence in Your Company’s Future

It’s a chicken or the egg question. Which comes first? The economy takes a downturn, so people stop spending; or people stop spending, and the economy takes a dive?

Either way, the results are the same. A decline in consumer confidence causes consumers to spend less, which results in massive hits on the economy, which causes people to spend even less, which then results in an even greater dip in the economy. It’s a vicious downward spiral — unless someone does something to stop it.

The same chicken or egg spiral happens in business. The company starts to struggle financially, the employees lose confidence in the future of the company, their morale and performance goes down, which results in the company’s financial picture becoming even bleaker, which then causes people to become even more disheartened. If something isn’t done, and done quickly, the organization is destined for decline, downsizing or even demise.

Clear, Logical Plan

During difficult business situations one of the most important things is to maintain the confidence of the employees during the crisis. When employees lose confidence in the business their performance goes down, which starts the spiral.

In an economic crisis what employees need most is confidence in the future viability of the business. They need assurance that the present crisis is only a temporary slump.

What workers don’t need are pep talks or motivational rallies to get them to work harder. No matter how strongly employees may have felt about their leaders before the crisis, charismatic leadership alone will not engage them during troubled times.

Employees gain confidence in the future viability of their organization not from what their leaders say, but by what they do. People are not motivated by words, they are motivated by plans. Employees will reconnect with the company when they see a clear, logical plan to restore the company to economic certainty. The plan must be based upon sound reasoning that makes strategic sense to the employees.

Whether you believe it or not, most employees, no matter what their job classification or educational background may be, have a reasonable business understanding and can sense whether or not their leaders’ decisions are sound. If the crisis response plan makes sense to them, they will work all the harder to make it succeed.

Get Employees Involved

The best solutions, of course, are those that the employees determined themselves.

Most employees are very astute in seeing what could be done differently to improve an operation. Employees are masters at making their jobs easier. Unfortunately, sometimes they minimize their work to the point where quality and service are negatively impacted. But given the right information, employees will generate improvement ideas that can help turn around a declining business.

Frequent Communication

To make good performance decisions employees need good business information. They need to understand the goals of the organization and where it is headed. They need a clear concept of the customers and what their needs are. They require a clear understanding of their role and how that role fits into meeting the customers’ needs.

Employees want to know what is going on. They wish to hear regular updates on how the business is progressing toward its goals. They need to know that their actions are helping to turn the company around.

What employees really want to know is — “Is there a future in this business and am I in it?”

They want their leaders to give them hope and confidence that life will be better once again and things will return to normal. Given that confidence, employees will work hard to make it happen.

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