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Sailing through rough economy pressures: HR perspectives


THE current business environment demands employers who are proactive in implementing survival strategies both to its employees and the company.

Guest column: Emmanuel Zvada

Human resources professionals are needed more than ever in the current volatile and uncertain business environment. To compete in a rapidly changing economy, HR should fundamentally reshape itself so that the function becomes a critical driver of agility in organisations.

Managing in times of uncertainty could lead to indecision and inaction, but for organisations and employees to sail through, survival strategies should be put in place.

With the increase in fuel prices as announced on Saturday, obviously market forces and industries will also follow suit. Human resources leaders industry-wide are rethinking and shifting priorities in response to new challenges that range from increased cost of living, increased transport fees, increase in prices of basic commodities, among others. With all these, bearing in mind that the environment is an uneasy one to both employers and employees, strategies should be put in place to make sure that employees also survive.

In this economic turmoil, employers need to remember that employees are their biggest contributing factor for success or failure including the safeguarding of the image of the companies. When times are tough, it’s tempting for business owners and managers to put engagement initiatives to one side and focus on organisational pressures. However, this is precisely the time when actively engaging with your employees is most critical. In the midst of tight budgets caused by austerity measures put in place by the government, your team’s morale and loyalty is stretched to its limits. Here are some ideas on what could keep your employees loyal and motivated without increasing expenses

Give your employees hardship allowances

The hardship allowance is a cushioning amount normally given to employees when the situation is bad and also as a way of recognising various difficulties which the employees are facing. Hardship allowances are normally calculated as a percentage of salary, depending on the agreement between the employees and the employer. It is important to give employees a raise on a regular basis on hardship allowances because it shows that you value them and their contributions to the company, even if things are also not well with the company. A simple allowance could boost morale, increase employee satisfaction, and encourage hard work.

Adjust working hours and give off days

Inflexible hours, especially combined with low wages, place demands on employees that leave them starved for time, both for themselves and for their families. If employees were working eight hours reducing them to six or seven as well as giving them off days is important. We have all been led to believe that there’s no substitute for hard work and long hours, and that the harder we work the better. Yet it has been overlooked that hard work, and long hours will not always yield rewards, but smart working. Humans need both physical and mental rest in order to recover between tasks, otherwise they could become stressed and exhausted. Working too intensely contributes to a decline in well-being and productivity in the workplace, especially in a hard economy.

Involving employees in problem-solving

By involving employees in problem-solving or business development, and by openly recognising their contribution, you could create an invigorating, progressive and inclusive workplace that is more likely to survive the bumpy roads ahead. Even in the most challenging times, owners/managers who are honest with their staff, commitment to credible communication, transparency of action and regular feedback could build trust, confidence and loyalty.

Provide clarity and transparency

During good times and bad, employees need to know where the organisation is headed and how they fit into the larger picture of what is taking place. When an employee feels he or she is not up to date with what is occurring in the company or their department, it is a message to the employee to say: “You are not important.” Keep information flowing to each employee and let them know what the company is doing and the direction it is taking. Be honest and authentic in communications and encourage people to raise questions and contribute ideas.

Apart from that, you are also supposed to give constant feedback to the employees. The days of quarterly or annual reviews being the sole form of feedback are long gone. Employees want to receive constant, specific, and clearly defined feedback from their supervisors.

Positive feedback about accomplishments is essential to motivate an employee

Give employees a sense of certainty

Certainty or safety is one of the most basic needs. Employees with a high confidence level in their company’s senior leadership are five times as likely to remain with their employer for more than two years compared to employees with no confidence. It is possible to give people a sense of control and safety even when there are huge levels of uncertainty around. Being truthful and involving people early on in the process could really help. Do your employees trust you as a consistent, dependable leader? You can build this trust by repeatedly honouring your commitments. If you’re guilty of over-promising and under-delivering, try stitching your ways. Be more realistic in the benchmarks you set.

Compliment your team and treat them like partners

A good leader knows how to interact with people on a “professional” as well as “personal” level. Every employee welcomes recognition and praise for their hard work; it also boosts their morale and encourages them to continue to do a good job. To be an effective leader, you should acknowledge the accomplishments of your team, both individually and as a group. The biggest motivator for most employees is to be treated like associates in your business. Have regular meetings, listen to their views and more importantly, share information with them.

Nothing is more powerful and crucial than sharing information with employees and involving them in the decision-making process. Some employers can even go to the extent of profit-sharing, even if things are not well. It may be just as little as 10% of your earnings shared among all your employees, this would mean a lot to them and would keep them engaged.

Employees can make or break your business. When times are tough, and everybody at work is nervous, managers must help employees stay engaged, focused and motivated. Management needs to take extra precaution to ensure that it is still properly motivating its employees. Doing so may help businesses make it through hard times .

Emmanuel Zvada writes in his own capacity he is a Human Capital Consultant / International Recruitment Expert and Author: For comments inbox to emmanuelzvada@webmail.co.za or call +263771467441.

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