Maintaining staff moral in turbulent times

You're settled into your seat for a long airplane trip — reclined, shoes off, drink on tray table, magazine open to that article you've been waiting to read once you finally had enough time. Suddenly, the flight attendant asks you to switch seats with another passenger — your comfortable environment and mental harmony is now disrupted, and it will require some deliberate focus and nurturing to get you back on track.

Imagine that same seat-swapping scenario occurring during a period of severe weather turbulence. Not only were you already anxious and feeling unstable in your current seat, you now have to collect yourself, mobilize and get re-oriented in a new place while trying to balance and keep from falling.

Change is usually not easy, and change amidst instability is even more difficult. Yet that's how many employees are feeling currently as companies large and small reorganise, reallocate resources, cut costs and downsize staff while the economy searches for stabilisation.

Whether you are the one initiating or adapting, adequate time should be allowed for contemplation and preparation before transition can be welcomed. Otherwise any change will be met with resistance and result in de-motivated staff and ultimately poor company performance. To encourage employee buy-in, companies should apply the "head, heart, hands" concept as they undergo any type of restructuring.

Knowing that staff would find any change unsettling, the company's Directors need to create a unified plan to fully communicate and engage their people before taking any action. Explaining all the logical and rational reasons for the change will enable staff to begin intellectually processing the information (head); acknowledging how the change will make employees feel before, during and after implementation will assuage their fear (heart); and outlining the tactical plan and ensuing goals will satisfy their need for action (hands).

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