How to Motivate and Retain Employees During Uncertain Economic Times

arizona economy | How to Motivate and Retain Employees During Uncertain Economic Times
Deanna Hagan
Deanna Hagan
Michael LaVance
Michael LaVance

By Deanna Hagan and Michael LaVance

The U.S. Department of Labor recently announced that employers added only 18,000 new jobs in June, the fewest in nine months and far below the 100,000 predicted by analysts. The unemployment rate remained just over 9 percent, with more than 14 million people unemployed.

 This disappointing news may point to a slowdown or stall in the country’s economic recovery, with gas prices, natural disasters and local government layoffs compounding the issue.

 In this current environment of continued economic uncertainty, employers may be searching for ways to motivate and retain employees that go beyond bonuses and raises. There are a variety of tactics that employers can implement, including:

Strong leadership

Employees rely on company leadership for guidance and strategic direction. Key executives should clearly communicate the company’s goals, challenges, achievements, and other noteworthy information in order to best foster employee engagement. Employees want to know what is happening in their workplace, and how they can help make a positive contribution. Sharing this information with employees is an important part of fostering an environment of engagement, leading to greater employee productivity and retention.

Encouraging company leaders to meet with employees at all levels, not just those in management positions, can lead to enhanced morale and engagement as well. Whether it is face-to-face meetings or video chats, providing one-on-one time helps unify managers and their teams.

Effective communication

While some companies think employees should be protected from less favorable news, this often paves the way for rumors to disseminate throughout the organization.  This can lead to mistrust, which often results in top performers making the decision to leave the company.  According to a 2010 poll conducted by the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM), 47 percent of HR professionals found that open communication demonstrated by leaders is one of the most effective tactics for retaining and rewarding employees.

Business owners can avoid workplace apprehension by openly communicating with employees and inviting them to contribute ideas and voice concerns.  Not only does this open dialogue, but it also helps employees to feel valued.  Business owners may also uncover good suggestions that may have otherwise gone unnoticed.

Competitive benefits

According to the 2010 Employee Benefits Survey Report conducted by SHRM, 72 percent of HR professionals reported that the benefits offerings at their organizations have been affected in some way by the economic recession.  The poll shows that organizations are looking for ways to manage costs while at the same time deal with the escalating expenses of employee benefits.  With the current economic climate, employers should consider that offering competitive benefits to employees is a key factor in retaining staff.

Career development

Providing employees with opportunities to broaden their skill sets and enhance their abilities is another way to foster engagement, including in-house training and external education programs.  These opportunities demonstrate a long-term commitment to employees that can translate to greater retention rates. For example, additional training courses can help employees boost their current performance and also allow them to acquire new skills that can help the company stay ahead of the competition.  Businesses should also consider leadership training as part of a comprehensive career-development program. 

Rewards and recognition

There are many effective incentive programs that demonstrate the value placed on employees, yet do not focus solely on huge raises, big bonuses or expensive prizes.  A weekly lunch drawing or casual dress workday can prove to be just as powerful when it comes to aligning employees with company goals. 

Recognizing individual achievements on a weekly or monthly basis can also help communicate an employee’s value.  Whether it is highlighting an employee at a company meeting or publishing an article on the company intranet, acknowledgement from company leadership has a long-lasting impact on the individual and the entire organization.

Now more than ever, business leaders need to retain their best employees to ensure the long-term success of their companies.  One way to do this is to make sure employees feel valued and know the company is dedicated to helping them achieve their personal goals.  Companies that invest in their employees by cultivating an open environment with opportunities to thrive will find that employees are more motivated, and more likely to stay with them for the long term.  

Deanna Hagan is a regional manager with Insperity for the Denver and Phoenix sales offices.  Michael LaVance is a business performance advisor with Insperity in one of its Phoenix sales offices.  Insperity (NYSE:  NSP), a trusted advisor to America’s best businesses for more than 25 years, provides an array of human resources and business solutions designed to help improve business performance. Insperity Business Performance Advisors offer the most comprehensive Workforce OptimizationTM solution in the marketplace that delivers administrative relief, better benefits, reduced liabilities and a systematic way to improve productivity.  Additional offerings include MidMarket SolutionsTM, Performance Management, Expense Management, Time and Attendance, Organizational Planning, Recruiting Services, Employment Screening, Retirement Services, Business Insurance and Technology Services. Insperity business performance solutions support more than 100,000 businesses with over 2 million employees.  With 2010 revenues in excess of $1.7 billion, Insperity operates in 55 offices throughout the United States.  For more information, call 800-465-3800 or visit

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