With the economy at a low period, many people feel trapped in their jobs, seeing dim prospects for better opportunities outside of their present situation. On the surface, this may seem like an ideal situation for organizations; as their turnover and costs incurred are very low. However, there is a hidden underside that is not so positive. When the economy is in high gear, disgruntled and disengaged employees could move on. Now they stay, bringing down the productivity level and morale of the organization. To counter this and bring more buy-in from their staff, there are a few things organizations can remember to do.

Consistent and open communication
If people don’t know, or are kept in the dark about what is going on, they will make up their own version. Rest assured that it won’t be a positive one. Instead of avoiding, minimizing or trying to hide a negative situation, management should tell it all and tell it like it is. Trust that staff will understand and appreciate being informed. Not disclosing will only breed mistrust, suspicion, fear and make the situation worse.

Empower and create opportunities for local decision making
It is more difficult to develop loyalty to a large impersonal organization than to a small, close knit group, where everyone obviously sees the impact of the decisions they make on those around them more clearly and quickly. The more decision making is left in the hands of those affected by the decision, the better. If cuts have to be made, let the units and people affected by the changes make the choices on what and how to cut, as much as possible. This keeps people more involved and feeling they have some control of the decisions that are affecting their lives.

Look for opportunities for development
Instead of focusing on the downside, look for positives in the situation. Every situation has a positive if we focus and look for it. Maybe there is time available for staff development, training and team building activities that the hectic pace didn’t allow before. Use a slow time to be creative and look for opportunities to use this time to develop skills that staff have an interest in but didn’t have the time for before.

Ask for feedback and have a plan for acting on it quickly
Asking staff for feedback and help during difficult times should not just be a public relations exercise, but a way of utilizing the ideas and talents of the entire workforce. The way the organization will be judged by staff is the outcome and decisions made with information they provided. If the organization has asked for feedback before and done nothing with it, staff will be distrustful and suspicious. Unless management is sincere and genuinely interested in hearing from staff, and has plans to use the feedback, they are better off not to ask for it in the first place. If the information is useful and can be implemented, act on it quickly. If it is not feasible, thank them for their efforts and explain why it can’t be implemented. Assure staff they have been heard and their feedback will be given real consideration.

Share a long term plan and focus
Difficult times don’t last. While it is important to put effort and energy into getting through these times, it is even more important to see past them to a brighter future. At these times it is crucial that everyone maintains hope and a vision beyond the present. Keeping everyone constantly informed and involved in long term thinking and planning for the future helps lift spirits and prevents knee jerk short term decision making that will later come back to haunt an organization.