MT Expert's Ten Top Tips: Reinvigorate your workforce

Keep your workforce motivated in the wake of redundancies...

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Last Updated: 31 Aug 2010
Throughout the recession employees in both the private and public sector have faced job uncertainty coupled with reduced pay and an erosion of benefits. The new government has already pledged £6bn worth of public sector cuts whilst many private sector companies are still some way from employment stability. Amid the turmoil, the traditional means of motivating staff are no longer available to employers at a time when they are most in need. So what should you be doing to reinvigorate your workforce? MT asked Joanna Knight, director of Berkshire Consultancy, for her top tips.

1. Improve communication
It’s critical that the rationale for making redundancies is explained clearly. Leaders must engage individual staff members on a personal basis and have in-depth conversations with them to ensure they are engaged and working to the best of their ability. If managers find themselves having the same conversations over and over again it is likely to be because the employee has lost the will, rather than the ability, to undertake a task. It’s important to be upfront about the reasons for change so staff maintain motivation and understand their position.

2. Reduce bad feeling
In the wake of redundancies, those left face two common frustrations: ‘I still have a job, but have more stress for the same reward’ or ‘I still have a job, but most of my workmates don’t’. Staff understand the reality of redundancies, but struggle to come to terms with the outcome of job cuts for colleagues. Take steps to minimise bad feeling and ensure that employees feel secure in their roles and their part in taking the company forward: failure to reassure remaining staff can result in a ‘self-destruct’ mentality amongst employees, propagating worry and mistrust of management.

3. Communicate early
Staff cuts are a harsh reality but change should be approached carefully. Organisations attempting to scale back whilst retaining a strong core of staff can come unstuck if fear is allowed to prevail. Staff often ‘jump ship’ at the first sign of job cuts, preferring to escape before the anticipated turmoil - which can create a skills gap, exactly when a strong team is needed. Communicating early is vital to pre-empt ‘Chinese whispers’ and to reassure staff before any resolutions are formed.

4. Engage staff in decision-making
Change decisions ‘foisted’ from on high are often resisted. Creating a culture of transparency is vital to increase acceptance of change by staff. Organisations can take this one step further by engaging employees in the decision-making process. Staff are much more likely to be supportive of actions they have helped formulate. While staff obviously can’t take part in redundancy decisions, they can be active and positive participants in the process by advising on changes to roles, responsibilities and working practices.

5. Provide practical help to exiting staff
Redundancy is relatively commonplace and no longer has the social stigma it once did, so it doesn’t need to be treated as a career-threatening experience. That said, these days organisational responsibility for exiting staff extends much further than a simple redundancy package. Exiting employees should be adequately supported, in both emotional and practical terms. The focus should be on tangible, practical help for those leaving the company. ensuring they’re well-placed to secure a new job.

6. Shop around for the best value suppliers
At a time when funding for such practical support is limited, it is critical that leaders identify the best value providers. Make sure those made redundant are well looked after in a low cost, high value manner. There are many different suppliers available offering standard support, such as CV and interview tips, but these can vary hugely in terms of quality, ease of use and relevance. Organisations should shop around to ensure they get the best value and best service.

7. Re-evaluate ‘business as usual’
Job cuts can provide an opportunity to make the changes necessary to create a more effective organisation. With some small adjustments to ‘business as usual’, you can re-motivate staff and identify the issues that may have been holding the organisation back. A key element of this comes from re-focusing performance management and ensuring all staff have the targets, tools and skills necessary to perform to the very best of their abilities.

8. Embrace change from the top down
Failure by management to make clear, reasoned decisions during a crisis will only inspire mistrust. Managers must remain positive and act as role models to remaining staff, providing strong and consistent leadership. Leaders must manage up, down and across, not just delegating tasks but making transparent, reasoned and robust decisions. However, these should not be decisions for decisions sake and should avoid dampening employee enthusiasm by imposing overly rigid structures and processes upon them.

9. Empathise with your employees
In the aftermath of redundancies, it’s important to understand the profound impact that emotions have in the workplace. Leaders must recognise the wisdom of the adage: ‘People don’t leave jobs, they leave people’. Employees respond emotionally to every situation that occurs in the workplace, and negative emotions reduce performance. It’s important that leaders work to understand the part emotion has to play during times of difficulty and work to ensure all communications are tailored in respect to the emotions that may come into play.

10. Look on the bright side
Leaders must step away from a critical approach to change and focus on the positive. Positive energy can be released by focusing on those things that a company does well. If redundancies are dealt with effectively, it could lead to increased agility and the ability to implement the necessary changes. This will create a more successful organisation, which will be good for the entire workforce in the long run. Try to see the positives and the opportunities inherent in the current situation, to generate excitement for change and to remain agile and ready for the challenges to come.

Joanna Knight is Director at Berkshire Consultancy - management consultants specialising in people-led performance improvement.

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