Feature Article:  Employee Morale

Beat the Recession:

Keeping Morale High Will Pay Off Now and Later


The Business Journal with global syndication - by Kathy Bergstrom
Link to Article at Bizjournals.com 

Layoffs, furloughs and pay cuts make it pretty tough to feel good about your job, but local companies are finding ways to boost morale and keep employees motivated during the recession.

“This is something we are working with on a regular basis,” said Jessica Ollenburg, president and chief executive officer of HRS-Human Resource Services, a Waukesha-based human resources consulting company.

“De-motivation is one of the most difficult things to overcome,” she said. “We’re doing a lot of coaching and training in avoiding that, but it’s very difficult when leaders themselves are becoming de-motivated at the highest level.”

Rockwell Automation Inc. wanted to find a way to support its employees through the global recession, said Susan Schmitt, senior vice president of global human resources for the Milwaukee-based manufacturer. The company already had a goal of creating an organization and culture that allows employees to perform their best work, but employee engagement and retention strategies become even more important in uncertain times, she said.

Rockwell created a 12-part video series focusing on personal leadership during difficult times to provide leadership training to employees at all levels. The content was personalized with company leaders creating video or audio commentary on the topics they felt most passionate about.

Managers facilitated a team discussion after watching the videos. The program was voluntary, but “we got huge viewership, a lot of really good feedback from people,” Schmitt said.

Rockwell Automation also has enhanced its CEO communications program over the last year.

Research shows that when employees receive clear communications and are aware of the company’s strategies and values, they feel a higher reason for work, Schmitt said.

Employees had already received notification from CEO Keith Nosbusch when Rockwell made a news release, but now his letter to employees is more tailored to employee concerns and questions, Schmitt said.

Rockwell continued its summer hours program this summer, which allows employees to leave work at noon on Fridays during the summer if they have completed their work hours. The company is putting more emphasis on training managers about its existing flexible work environment policy to increase understanding.

Flexible work environment can include options such as job sharing and telecommuting.

Rockwell believes employees can focus better on their work when they have the flexibility to effectively manage their personal and professional lives.

“I think it makes people feel a lot better about work,” Schmitt said. “We’re sending a signal to people that we do trust them.”

Scheduling to meet lifestyle needs is becoming more important for employers, Ollenburg said. It can be a cost-saving measure for companies, too.

One solution to improving morale and motivation is third-party coaching. When an outside coach comes in for leadership or team building efforts, it lends credibility, because employees won’t think it’s company hype, Ollenburg said.

On-site participative workshops also are on the rise. When employees are involved in the design of the workshops, they get an increased sense of team building.

Her company’s surveys have shown that the biggest motivator for employees is the opportunity to advance.

Oak Creek manufacturer Bay View Industries enhanced its leadership training program over the last year by adding on-site workshops for coaching and team building designed by Ollenburg’s company.

“We felt it’s important to still continue with that training, not to stop,” said Jann Skowronski, human resource manager.

Publication September 11, 2009




LEADERSHIP TRAINING: Offer training videos and on-site workshops or bring in a coach to conduct sessions.
FLEXIBLE WORK ENVIRONMENT: Allow employees flexibility to dictate their own start or ending times or to work from home.

COMMUNICATION: Make employees feel part of the team by letting them know what’s going on at the company through newsletters or Q-and-A sessions with company leaders.