Dear On Edge:
General workforce engagement is mostly a function of how well you create the conditions that support it. Of course, layoffs are a tremendous drain on emotional energy and engagement. What is even more demoralizing for employees is watching co-workers get the proverbial axe month after month while being completely in the dark about why, when, or what they can do about it. Such a workplace teems with rumors and speculations. Employees who feel like powerless victims will disengage even further.
However, despite the challenges, there are practical ways to re-engage the workforce that could result in remarkable business turnarounds. You can start by simply telling employees the truth about the layoffs and giving them opportunities to gain some control over their future. To do that, they will need information you may not have shared before. You will need to make employees part of the business by helping them understand the big picture and the impact they have on its success (beyond the daily tasks for which they are responsible).
Involve your employees by bringing them together for some "straight talk," sharing the harsh realities of the marketplace and your business situation. Information you share will have to be credible. That means no spin, no hidden agendas, no manipulative language, no sugarcoating your message. Lay out the business conditions in layman's terms, enabling employees to understand factors that contribute to the layoffs as well as the business achievement needed to prevent them in the future. Provide key metrics that illustrate both the level of achievement needed and the gap between current levels.
Your employees hold part of the solution to your problem. Ask them to suggest ways to improve costs, boost customer service, obtain new customers, or in creating breakthroughs to help the company survive the difficult period ahead. Empower them with time, resources, decision latitude, and support that will enable them to take an active part in turning things around. Provide abundant feedback and celebrate accomplishments. It's important to create a proactive environment for employees, even if doing so does not prevent layoffs from occurring in the future. That way, employees will see the positive impact they make and stay committed to your organization's success, knowing they have some influence over their destiny.
SOURCE: Kevin Herring, Ascent Management Consulting, Oro Valley, Arizona, February 5, 2013
LEARN MORE: Strong engagement also plays a role in retention of top performers: Do We Really Need to Still Care About Retention?
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