Here’s a disturbing statistic: More than eight of 10 employees participating in a recent poll said they’d be actively looking for a new job in the coming year.
Eighty-three percent of the nearly 900 workers in a recent online poll from Right Management said they’ll be looking to make a move in 2014. And another 9% said they were considering looking for a new job, so they’re networking.
According to the poll, only 5% of employees intend to stay in their current position.
And there’s more bad news on the employee research front: A recent Washington Post/Miller Center poll indicates that more than six in 10 workers are worried that they’ll lose their jobs as a result of the stagnant economy. Thirty-two percent said they worry “a lot.”
Sure sounds like there’s an awful lot of uneasiness in the workplace. How can employers ease the tension?
Calming the waters
Amy Gallo, writing on the Harvard Business Review blog, outlines some things companies can do when the organization is in dire straits.
Gallo says that, instead of abandoning best common practices, the most skilled leaders reinforce them. She quotes Kim Cameron, a business professor at the University of Michigan: “Good management is good management. Treating people well, helping them flourish, and unlocking potential are all good practices regardless of the environmental circumstances.”
Gallo outlines other steps to keeping a workforce calm, committed and engaged during tough times:
Give the team a larger purpose
To keep people focused, managers should give them something to work toward. People want to believe their work matters in any situation. This can be tough when the company’s success is no longer the goal, but you might select something that employees value personally — leaving a legacy or proving critics wrong.
Provide reasonable incentives
Companies should find ways to reward good work. Make it clear what people will get if they do their best in this trying time. Will they learn a skill that will help them find their next job? How will the experience help them grow professionally?
Show people they matter as individuals
Don’t just offer the same things to everyone, however. People want to still be seen as individuals. Tailor your message and the incentives to specific team members. Whenever possible, give them personal attention and care. When news of a crisis hits, managers should meet with employees one-on-one. The key thing is for managers to find out what matters most to workers and then do their best to meet those needs.
Always be honest and authentic
Being transparent is crucial in these circumstances. Managers can’t try to protect people from the truth or ignore what’s happening. And they should never say anything they don’t mean. In tense situations, people are on high alert for lies and inauthentic messages.
Don’t ignore emotions
People are going to be upset, afraid and angry. Managers can’t pretend these feelings don’t exist. Instead, supervisors need to make room for them. Tell people that you’re available to talk whenever they want. Encourage people to get together without you so that they can say things they might not want to express in front of a boss. Managers aren’t counselors, however — if people need more specialized support to deal with what’s going on, they should be referred to outside resources like those in an Employee Assistance Program (EAP).
Rules of the game
Gallo summarizes the principles managers need to follow:
- Focus people on a meaningful goal
- Be 100% honest about what you know — share any information you can, and
- Encourage your team to get together without you to talk about what’s happening.
- Expect that people will perform if you’re only giving them a paycheck — give them more meaningful incentives such as professional growth
- Treat people the same — remember they’re individuals with different needs and goals, and
- Pretend that something bad isn’t happening — be transparent and welcome expressions of emotion.