In an economy where employees who hate their jobs are hanging on for the paycheck, getting the most out of the team is more difficult than ever. You may not know who they are, because hiding disappointment, boredom or a feeling of being trapped in a “dead end” job has become a matter of survival. With profits dwindling, employers looking to cut costs find it easier to eliminate a position or come down hard on offenders when they are looking out for their own survival.
According to a January 2010 article in the New York Post, only 51% of Americans found their jobs interesting. Once the economy starts its long awaited upturn and companies begin hiring, those 51% will start looking elsewhere. Many of the Gen X and Gen Y workers are leaving the traditional job scene with its “9 to 5” regime for the freedom of entrepreneurship. Armed with the technical skills, self-esteem drawn from being told they were the best by parents and teachers, and the fact that many are back home living with their parents, they have more freedom to take risks.
The challenge for human resources is to keep the current employees productive, producing high-quality work and keeping customers happy. Customers spending their dwindling resources expect a lot for their money. Here are five ways to keep up productivity through these difficult times.
1. Go overboard with appreciation. Simply saying “thank you” when someone does a good job, does a little more, or fills in for someone else to save the day goes a long way. Take the time to stop what you are doing, look that person in the eye, and tell them you appreciate what they did, why it was important and how it positively affected the business.
2. Look for small opportunities. Invite a staff member to a management meeting. The opportunity to present a presentation or report you were working on yourself instead of the manager is valuable exposure to upper management. It doesn’t cost anything, and can be a morale booster which affirms confidence in that person’s ability.
3. Take a break. Even if you only have 30 minutes for a lunch break, insist your team takes it. Have everyone bring their brown bag lunch to the break room, lounge area, outside picnic tables or a park nearby. Eating while working is bad for digestion, the equipment, and encourages mindless eating that is a contributing factor to obesity. And don’t talk shop.
4. Be flexible. Gen X’s and Y’s value their free time, and are not willing to sacrifice having a life for their job. Can you offer a flexible schedule – adjusting work hours to accommodate a later start time on Mondays (after the busy party weekends) or early departure on Fridays? How about four 10-hour days, with alternating Mondays and Friday’s off? Flexible schedules rates at the top in job satisfaction, giving employees options instead of mandates.
5. Get the paychecks and benefits right. Nothing is more disconcerting than a paycheck that is missing hours, claims that are denied, or being told your insurance is cancelled when you show up at the dentist with a toothache. Money is tight for most employees, and you may think it’s no big deal when a paycheck is $100 short, but to an employee it can mean the difference between buying food or prescriptions.
It doesn’t take a lot of money to keep the troops happy. Time, flexibility, reliability, recognition and opportunity are welcome perks no matter what the economic climate.
By Mary Nestor-Harper, SPHR, MJNH Consulting
Mary Nestor-Harper, SPHR, is a freelance writer, blogger, and consultant. Based in Savannah, GA, her work has appeared in "Training" magazine, "Training & Development" magazine, "Supervision," "Pulse" and "The Savannah Morning News." You can read her blogs at www.skirt.com/savannahchick, www.workingsmartworks.blogspot.com/ and on the web at www.mjnhconsulting.com.
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