The longer the government shut-down, the broader the impact on individuals and companies. What your company does during tough economic times or unfolding events where the outcomes are uncertain matters when it comes to employee engagement. World Class Benchmarking knows there are effective strategies that some of the biggest businesses are using to sustain employee engagement in difficult times and create business success.
Stay Focused on Your Employees
When confusing things happen such as the recent government shutdown, it may seem like you need to minimize or cut back on non-core programs like employee recognition and incentives. But it’s even more essential to focus on your employees when things are worrisome. For example, David Weekly Homes cancelled its annual reward trip to be able to triple severance pay for laid-off employees when the construction industry slowed.
Ask Them How They’re Feeling
Information is important when things are confusing and uncertain. It helps people understand options and conditions and see a little more clearly. Engage employees who may be wondering how the government shutdown will affect them and their families, and especially with those directly experiencing the effects – if relatives are suddenly not getting a pay check from their government position or you have furloughed employees.
Solicit employee feedback and provide outlets for their opinions, questions, and concerns. Be involved and be there to listen and brainstorm on how to manage things better. Allowing affected workers to help problem solve can make them feel more empowered.
Here’s what some of the biggest companies do to keep in touch with employees:
- Lowes’ stores gather front-line employees into teams to voice their ideas and opinions with decision makers.
- H&R Block developed Block Central, a corporate news site for employees to comment on and question internal news items.
- Genentech uses weekly employee polls to let employees express concerns or complaints.
Be Honest with Employees
It’s tempting to keep bad news under wraps and discourage any focus on it, but Towers Watson found that most employees want the truth from their employers about negative situations. Rackspace Managed Hosting holds regular meetings to dispense financial issues. Compaq and Patagonia communicated openly with their employees when the economic downturn started to keep morale from deteriorating. If you’re not talking with your employees about the government shutdown, you’re missing out on a huge opportunity to connect with them and sustain engagement.
Use Difficult Times to Serve Others
When bad news or distressing circumstances can be distracting, offer employees a way to give back and serve as a way to gain some perspective and control. Many companies affected by the shutdown are finding ways to share the burden. In the news, a consulting agency with furloughed employees in their government division found co-workers volunteering to share the furlough burden with affected co-workers. What a wonderful gesture of care and concern for coworkers and an unplanned engagement and community building opportunity.
Giving employees options to help in the wider community also gives them a reason to be proud of their employer and co-workers. Many companies include some amount of paid time off for volunteer activities. Deloitte & Touche hosts Impact Day to enable its employees to support hundreds of nonprofits. Might be a good time to mobilize employees not affected by the shutdown to help those who are. It will make everyone feel better.
Take World Class Benchmarking’s advice to involve employees with some effective engagement strategies during our current government shutdown. It’s not too late to focus on employees, ask them how they’re feeling about it, or give them some way to be of service internally or in the community. It will help them and your business at the same time, and have long-lasting effects for all of you.
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