Keep the Engagement Lights on in Rolling Economic Blackout

While the global economy continues its rolling blackout – and who knows what will happen this week with the US at AA+ – we keep talking by candlelight about employee retention, employee engagement and all workplace things touchy-feely as if they’re inspirational anecdotes of an alternate universe we should all be living in.

There are some exceptions of course, but we usually don’t live in that electrified looking glass.

For example, are you employees doing a lot more with a lot less? Are they burned out? Do they tell you they are? Are they looking for a way out? Are you recognizing all their hard work? Are they struggling to keep their families afloat?

And what about you and your business? Is your management not sleeping at night? Are sales flat and revenues in the tank? Are you burned out? Are you investing your own savings and/or playing credit card roulette to make payroll every month and just to keep your own family afloat?

Whether you’re a consultant, a business owner, executive management, or HR and people management professionals in larger companies, hopefully you’re tuned in to your people and are aware of their stress as well as your own, and are trying to do something to alleviate it. You may not be hiring right now, but you’re probably doing everything you can to keep what you have and who you have until the power grids are fully firing.

Listen, I’m sure you’ve seen enough survey research recently to make you pass out from the stressed out and unhappy workers you manage everyday. But here’s another one:

According to a recent study referenced in an HR Executive article, the University of Zaragosa in Spain found that two key factors — workplace stress (mainly monotony and feeling overburdened) and a perceived lack of recognition — are the prime factors in employee burnout.

Regardless of the type of burnout, however, the result is emotional exhaustion, cynicism and a lack of productivity, the researchers concluded.

You and the rest of your management team may not think about these things, or even care much right now as you try to stay afloat, but the reality is you should care a little if staying in business with top talent means anything to you. It’s comes from the top down, and if you’re struggling to keep your business relevant and viable, as well as your very professional existence, then you’ll practice what you should be preaching with the smart meters on.

Here are some suggestions you should consider from the experts in the article:

  • Encourage authentic communication that fosters a sense of belonging between employee and employer.
  • Periodically take the pulse of your employees to identify their specific areas of concern and link employee opinion to outcomes such as productivity and retention.
  • Ensure your employees that their opinions make a difference, and mean it. Practice what you should be preaching.
  • Offer effective training, either within or outside of the company, to enable advancement opportunities and give employees a sense that it’s possible change their environments.
  • Create “influence teams” who can look at ways to improve employee situations, including offering a paid month, 3-month, or 6-month sabbatical for long-term employees.

This list can go on and on. One final sentiment from the experts (and from me for what it’s worth): listen to your employees (as well as yourself), appreciate them, recognize and share in their successes (and yours as a business), reward their hard work (and your own), and never underestimate the power of touchy-feely, whether in full wattage or by candlelight.

It’s only when you’ve lived the rolling business blackouts and survived the economic changes in and around you and your people, can you truly know the difference between what’s real and what’s a sweet employee engagement bedtime story.

Hey, we’re just trying to keep the lights on here.

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