Dealing With Employees During Hard Times

Managing your business during hard times is difficult. But managing people, the culture, the emotions, the behavior, can be doubly difficult when the business isn’t doing that well.  Especially if you had to let some of the staff go. How do you keep the team upbeat and motivated when all there seems to be is bad news? How do you get the best out of your people during such times? There is so much uncertainty that employees seem to be constantly looking over their shoulder. Here are some ideas that may help you. Of course these ideas should continue even when the business turns the corner and starts to show improvement. 

Share the numbers — many business owners are reluctant to share financial statistics with their staff for fear of letting their employees know how much the owner makes or doesn’t make. You don’t have to share every last detail but certainly sales trends from month to month and possibly margin information would be helpful. You’d be surprised, many of your employees may have some great ideas on how to improve the results if they feel they are part of the business. Conduct monthly staff meetings and communicate the previous month’s results compared to your budget. Share with them what actions are in place to get improvements. Ask for their opinions.

Everyone is in the Marketing Department — Encourage the idea that everyone, from receptionist, to bookkeeper, to engineer, to the service rep, is also in the marketing department. Everyone should be promoting the company every chance they can. Point out it is in their best interest to do so. The better the company does the better they will do. It’s a team effort. Ask for their ideas on marketing the business.

Share your vision — What are you most passionate about when running your business? What are your long-term goals? These are things your staff should know. If they know the direction of the company it will curb some of the uncertainty they feel.  It could also help you. If they know the long-term goals of the business it will help them make decisions on their daily assignments and help you achieve your goals.

If you have to cut, cut right — There is nothing worse than having to go through wave after wave of layoffs. If you have to lay people off get it right the first time. Anticipate the worst case scenario and cut with that in mind. Then, hopefully, you will not have to address staff levels again. The remaining team will feel they are part of the solution to help get the company back on track.

Look for people doing things right — Far too often managers are quick to point out mistakes their people make. Make it a point to find people doing something right. And then make sure they get the recognition. There is a book titled “Whale Done” by Ken Blanchard which focuses on positive relationships.  It points out the difficulty of getting killer whales to do tricks if all you do is beat them with a stick when the whale doesn’t perform to your standards. You would most assuredly fail.  How can you take this concept and apply it to the people that work for you? 

Don’t cut training — If your employees need training be sure they get it. It is very easy for this to be one of the first expenses you cut. But by not having trained employees you risk the fact that things will cost you more in terms of mistakes or activities taking longer than they should.  In the long run it will cost you more. 

Employee respect — Many managers perceive their employees as too immature or not intelligent enough to understand the ins and outs of the business. By doing this they underestimate and actually insult the intelligence of their people. Be honest and transparent in your communication. Don’t sell your people short.

During hard times your attention to your staff is imperative. They are the ones who will help you get back on track. You can’t do it all by yourself. Once your business starts to do better the trust and team environment you’ve created will pay off exponentially.