Surviving Tough Times: Start From the Inside

By Dr Rhonda R. Savage

The human tendency is to do less, spend less, worry more and have more fear. However, in tough economic times such as this, it’s more important than ever for companies to relearn and grow, to be innovative and not procrastinate!

Even though business may be down, employees still need to be involved and motivated in order for the company to bounce back when things turn around. Knowing the goals and needs of the business and keeping employees invested in the company will ultimately help the business thrive in times of economic uncertainty. To be sure your business thrives in spite of the economy, acknowledge that tough economic times call for tough strategies.

Clarify your business goals: Evaluating where the business stands and what areas need improvement will help you and your employees stay focused. Ask your team members for their help. Create an environment where employees are encouraged to provide feedback. Clarify organization goals by asking six questions:

1)   What are your major goals? Write them down.

2)   What are your strengths and weaknesses? What should you stop doing? What should you never stop doing?

3)   What do you need to change?

4)   What is your plan? Choose only 2 short-term goals and one long-term goal. Focus on these, remembering that too much change all at once is worse than no change at all.

5)   What are you going to do to put your plan into action? List the steps necessary to accomplish the goal. Ask your team which steps each member will volunteer for and hold the team accountable.

6)   Don’t give up!  Enjoy the challenge and persevere. Most importantly, however, for your team’s sake, celebrate each accomplished goal before crossing it off the list and choosing another goal.

Hold effective team meetings to keep your employees informed: Good leaders solicit information and facilitate discussion, primarily through a commitment to team involvement. A key way to have effective staff involvement is through the use of team meetings. These meetings review the health of the business as well as provide necessary training for employees. Successful team meetings are goal oriented, productive and motivational and should have the following characteristics:

  • Facilitation by different team members on a rotational basis

  • Clearly defined expectations of behavior

  • All members, including owners/managers should be held to the same level of accountability

  • A specific agenda

The meeting should not focus on something only one team member is doing. These issues are best discussed privately with that individual.

Conduct regular performance reviews: Many managers and business owners avoid performance reviews because they are afraid of creating conflict. But the truth is, your employees need them. A productive performance review should be motivational. It’s not a time to talk about something your team member did two months ago.

Performance reviews should focus on the employee’s goals. Prior to the review, ask them to list 3-4 goals they’d like to accomplish over the next year. Then ask them to identify the goal they will focus on during the next 90 days. This way, when you meet for the review, you can discuss their progress toward achieving their goals. You can ask the following questions to facilitate discussion during a performance review:

·         What tools do you need to accomplish your goals?

  • What skills or training can I give you that will better enable you to do your job?

  • Are you happy?

  • Do you feel challenged?

Hold merit review sessions separate from performance reviews: Based on the performance review, your employee may be due for a merit increase. A merit review gives you the opportunity to discuss why or why not the employee received a pay increase and what they can do to earn the next one. Especially if business is down and pay raises are impossible, during this review, you can recognize the employee’s hard work and explain why they have not received a raise.

A merit increase should be based upon four things:

  •  Attitude

  • Contributions to the business

  • Overall review score

  • The health of the business

In these tough times, especially, it’s important that your employees understand their true pay. They should know the value of their benefits and their true wage. Annually, with their W-2, attach a breakdown of the true dollar per hour each team member earns, including all benefits, with a Total Pay Statement.

Let your employees know that this is the time to dig deep into the business! There is always work to do; make the most of down time by “digging deep” into development of systems. Tough times call for tough strategies….and tough times don’t last but tough people do!  Acknowledge your strengths, congratulate the team on what they do well and focus energy where you might do better.

Read other articles and learn more about Dr Rhonda R. Savage.

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