Morale, Schmorale -- Why treating employees badly now will hurt your business later

We all know the job market is a mess.

People with Masters degrees and years of experience are competing for entry level contract temp positions that used to go to college students looking to pick up some resume lines between their junior and senior year. Staffing levels at most companies are at all-time lows. And sales? Oh, let's not even go there.

By all accounts, this looks like a buyer's market when it comes to hiring and retaining talented employees. After all, where are they going to go if they express their discontent and write out that two week notice?

The answer may be "No where." And you may have them by the ... well, you know. But that's only for now. But like the proverbial elephant who never forgets, the mistreated, misused or abused employee will keep those memories for a long time. And when the economy recovers, you can bet your best and brightest will be out the door first, looking for greener pastures and better opportunities.

No matter how easy it may seem to keep people with no raises, lousy hours and triple assignments now, the best companies and the best managers know this kind of strategy will only doom their business in the long run. Sure, even the most forward-looking companies may be slashing their payrolls in order to ride out the storm, but they are treating their survivors well. They are paying attention to employee engagement.

And that means they are building a solid core of loyal, capable, well-trained and committed employees for the future.

When new hires come on board in the future, they'll need to learn the ropes and get some experience under their belts. And that core of solid, well-treated employees who lasted through the dark days and the down sales and saw their company's commitment to them will be the first to draw new staff members into the fold and make sure they understand just what a great company it is.

So what do you do when the budgets just won't bear a regular or standard pay raise? How do you say thank you to employees in a way that matters?

  • First, give 'em what you can. Even if it's a 1% raise or a one-time bonus, let the hard-working double-duty working employees you still have know you are stretching the limits to give them SOMETHING. Remember, a flat wage means your employees are actually losing money year after year. (A caveat -- make sure your pay increases for senior management are just as flat as those in the rank-and-file. They will find out, no matter how closely you try to guard that secret!)
  • Second, reward them with cost-free pats on the back. Let them take some time (during work hours, and of course, paid) to learn a new software, take a personal interest class at a local college or community center or volunteer for a favorite charity. Make school assemblies, little kid concerts and end-of-the-year school award ceremonies something they can attend without using their leave time. Boost their paid vacation time by one day, or declare their birthdays (or the next working day after it) a paid holiday for each employee. (I once worked for a company that did this, and it did make every employee feel special!)
  • Work on what they're called. Give them a title that honors all that they do, even if the pay isn't there just yet. Of course you have to make sure the titles don't get your business into trouble with FLSA rules, but even within those guidelines, there is plenty of room for more impressive (and morale boosting) job labeling.

Posted via email from G-Neil's Posterous


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