The current economic downturn has been going on for a while and many indicators suggest that it will continue for quite a bit longer. This is depressing even to type out. It has been a long haul for sure. I have seen firsthand companies responding to this reality with important measures including layoffs and/or reductions in pay. This can weigh heavy both on employees and managers alike.
And as a manager, even during these times, you are to set the tone being both grounded and optimistic with your direct reports.
A major part of your role is to keep the troops engaged, productive and connected. The temptation for a lot of managers is to either ignore the situation or to add to the negative anxiety, neither of which is acceptable for a great leader.
Employees these days are pretty sophisticated at all levels from blue color to the young professional. The pervasiveness of the 24/7 news cycle, internet, twitter, blogs etc. keeps employees tuned in to the reality of things. A manager must not only acknowledge this but leverage it. Employees understand the tough times, and most understand even things like pay freezes or reductions in pay. But as a manager you still must keep the employees engaged and working effectively. This means keep doing what you are supposed to be doing in terms of coaching, giving feedback, and interacting with your team.
This also means keep the Performance Management schedule. Not that long ago I witnessed a company that stopped doing any Performance Reviews or Yearly Goal Setting with their employees. Their rationale was because they were afraid if they did the employees might expect a raise and the company was not in a position to accommodate that. I mean how demoralizing is that, not only are the employees not going to get any raises but they now were going to be deprived from credible feedback, career development and basic concern. This, not the lack of raise, is what will truly disengage employees.
In an article from HR Executive online, http://www.hreonline.com , coming out on September 2nd, a survey of over 800 HR executives found that the top three things keeping these executives up at night are
1-Keeping Employees Engaged and Productive
2- Retaining Key Talent
3- Developing leaders
The reality is an employee’s manager has the most influence on those above issues. So do not shy away from talking honestly about the current economic situation and the impact on the company with them. But most importantly keep up paying attention and investing efforts into your reports. Done well you will strengthen your bond with them, keep them from leaving or giving up and will develop them to meet the needs of the company’s future.