Keeping people happy in tough times

Karl Andrews, managing director of Tenacity Interiors , suggested the following as a blog cropped-David-Shaw-with.jpgtopic and my thanks to him for what I suspect is an all too current issue facing many managers. “How about, how to keep your staff happy during a recession where pennies are tight and pay rises and overtime are few and far between ?”

Assuming that your people are in the right jobs in the first place and not square pegs in round holes (does the job really match their strengths?), there are at least five things at your disposal as a manager to keep them happy or at least more satisfied.  Pay and security never motivate but they do create dissatisfaction.  The formal name for this approach is embodied in Herzberg’s two-factor theory.  Herzberg’s work identified five major motivators for staff.

  1. Achievement.  Do their jobs enable them to achieve something meaningful?  Your leadership here is central in linking each individual’s contribution to the purpose of your organisation and how it contributes to benefit other people.
  2. Recognition.  Do you recognise people’s achievements regularly?  Are you sure that they know they will be thanked for their efforts not in some insincere cheesy way but genuinely and accurately.  The manager who has a habit of saying “well done” indiscriminately soon gets gets caught out when it becomes apparent to staff that he or she doesn’t really understand what precisely people are doing well!  “Thank you for your work on x which was clearly a challenge” is much more effective than a bland thank you.
  3. Responsibility.  “Oh” I hear you say, I can’t give them more responsibility for no more pay!  When you give people responsibilities it ultimately suggests that you trust them and everyone likes to feel trusted.  Perhaps you can loosen controls over those people who have proved that they can be trusted say in monitoring their own work.
  4. Work itself.  Can you make the work more interesting?  What ideas do staff have for making the work more interesting?  Could an individual’s strengths be used more?  What skills has a person got that your organisation is not using?
  5. Personal growth.  What can people learn about?  What skills do they want to develop?  Helping people to develop and grow protects their future even if the present situation makes it difficult to reward them financially.

If pennies (money) is genuinely tight do staff understand why or have you just assumed that it is obvious?  Do you see a point somewhere in the future where pay rises might be possible?  What do you need people to do to get to that point sooner rather than later?  What conditions need to apply to enable you to increase overtime and pay levels?  If any of the answers to these questions are unclear to staff or left to chance you could be missing a leadership opportunity.

If people believe that you are trying to make the best of a less than preferable situation, they are likely to follow you and hopefully be all the happier for it.

I’ve no wish to suggest that this is easy but doing nothing is just not a very good option!

I raise money for the Alzheimer’s Society in the UK – a small donation at would be most appreciated

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