Spend a few dollars on a team-building exercise. It doesn’t have to be coal-walking or a week at a resort. Have a one-day session led by a facilitator.
Seek advice from everyone—at all levels of the organization—as to how to improve their work environment. Put a task team in place and follow up with in-person meetings no less than once a month. Even if you’re in a funk yourself, take a deep breath and just do it.
Show employees how and why they matter. “You have to communicate that what they’re doing is contributing to the betterment of the company. Let people know times are tough but you do appreciate their efforts,” says Beverly Lieberman, president of executive search firm Halbrecht Lieberman Associates. This is the time for town hall meetings, brown-bag lunches, morning doughnuts, evening pizzas, and formal and informal pats on the back.
Talk about the extra burdens the economy has placed on them. Ask what would help them balance work and family demands. Their answers might surprise you. Time, not money, is a more precious resource for many people, says Maria Schafer, program director for Meta Group.
Arrange to have senior managers visit when staff members are working extra hours. It means a lot to IT people to see that someone senior knows and appreciates what they’re doing.
Be honest and clear about the tough things. If more layoffs are a possibility, say so. Don’t make your staff read about looming cuts in The Wall Street Journal. For those who remain, let them know exactly what is expected of them. Offer benefits such as comp time to assuage hard feelings and frayed nerves.
Don’t let community involvement slide. Duke Energy is extensively involved in its local schools, helping high school students learn key skills in a program called Tech Connect and getting computer access for economically disadvantaged children in a program called Neighborhood Connection. People find it rewarding in tough economic times to work on these programs, says Cecil Smith, CIO of Duke Energy.
Let senior staff take a hit. At Duke Energy, raises and bonuses for the most senior managers have been frozen since last year, while more junior people are still eligible to receive them.