1. Get in front of your staff on a regular basis. Ask for questions and concerns. Solicit ideas. Then listen. And respond with the truth.
2. Get to know your direct reports. Find out what makes them successful as individuals.
3. Put together a team to collect employee ideas and input on a monthly or regular basis. Employees resent not being able to contribute. Install a suggestion box if you don’t already have one.
4. Invest in professional development for your staff. “You absolutely must preserve some of your training money. You have to send them to training at least twice a year or they’ll leave the first chance they get,” says Beverly Lieberman, president of executive search firm Halbrecht Lieberman Associates. But don’t dole out training opportunities to only the choice few, as sometimes happens when money is tight. That will just create worse morale among the have-nots.
5. Remove the obstacles to getting training. With people spread so thin, it can be difficult, if not impossible, for them to take advantage of training. Use creative scheduling or get in some temporary help to ensure people can take courses.
6. Have senior management speak to your group about the business and its goals. “Even if there’s nothing really great to say, you have to tell them how you’re trying to keep the ship afloat,” says Lieberman. Put a cap on negative watercooler chat by formalizing the discussion.
7. Enlist help from human resources. Spend time with a senior HR person and brainstorm ways to bolster morale.
8. Go for executive training. This may be impractical with both time and money tight. But if there’s any way you can do it, take an executive development course at a premier institution such as Harvard, MIT or Stanford.
9. Get yourself a coach. Ask an HR professional to help you find a personal coach who can help boost morale. If the company can’t or won’t sponsor coaching services, pay for it yourself.
10. Get communication help. Cecil Smith, CIO of Duke Energy, has a dedicated communication professional, Andy Thompson, to help him disseminate information both inside and outside his organization. Smith was surprised to hear there was an IT communication role when he first joined Duke in 1995. Now he finds Thompson indispensable. “He’s been at my side since then,” says Smith.