Economy's Ripple Effect on Your Employees

– Is the economy finally back on track?
– Are we headed for a double-dip recession?
– Will hiring pick up again anytime soon?

These are important questions that will impact the future of your organization—however, the more immediate question is: How are the ripple effects from the ongoing tight economic conditions directly impacting your employees TODAY?

Just as an individual business functions within the tides of the economy, individual employees and team members are buffeted by the turbulence associated with the ongoing economic downturn. The “new normal” translates into longer working hours, shorter deadlines, expanded job duties and responsibilities, and increased stress levels throughout the organization—all of which directly impact morale, working conditions, and your bottom line.
What can you do from a training and development standpoint to ensure your employees have the tools they need to ride out the ripples?
  • Directly address increased stress levels with a variety of approaches. 
    • Organizations can offer stress management workshops and implement health and wellness campaigns to help address the stressors facing employees.  You might want to bring in a motivational speaker or humorist for certain types of events, and implement both formal and informal recognition programs, which can be effective without a high cost. If you aren’t already doing so, consider surveying your employees for their input as to the highest-value stress relief options they’d like to see.
  • Seek opportunities for increased efficiency and improved productivity. 
    • Many organizations have turned to an internal project management approach to identify process flow improvements and streamline operations—training your managers and supervisors in the Essentials of Project Management can help them hit the ground running. Beyond project management, you can provide tools to help all employees improve their time efficiency and gain a handle on the daily deluge of information they are expected to handle.
  • Ensure your employees have the tools and skills they need for effective teamwork and communication. 
    • When working with fewer team members to share an unchanged or increased workload, it’s important that teams understand how to work AND play together for solid long-term results.  For some teams, communication and interpersonal skills could stand some improvement, while for others conflict resolution skills are called for.  You may want to consider implementing a psychometric tools approach and utilize the DiSC, Myers-Briggs, or other instrument to provide some common ground and language around team behaviors and expectations.
  • Be alert for potential incidents of harassment, disrespectful behavior, and other compliance violations. 
    • In times of increased stress, it is not uncommon to see an increase in negative employee behavior; this may result in potential harassment complaints, hostile work environment claims, or reported ethics violations.  As an employer you must be on the lookout to quickly respond appropriately to such incidents and should also consider proactively offering harassment prevention & awareness workshops or respectful work environment programming to provide employees with the tools, they need to be clear about their responsibilities and your organization’s policies and procedures.
The economy will improve at some point…however, these “new normal” working conditions are likely here to stay. Smart organizations are those taking steps to adapt now to the new normal so that they retain employees when conditions do improve, and they are prepared to grow and thrive in both the rapids and the calm downstream.
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