How to motivate employees after headcount reductions

There are certain times when employee motivation is easier to achieve than others. If your organisation has recently been forced to reduce headcount, it’s understandable that remaining staff may feel anxious and worried about their future.

Knowing how to motivate employees during such times is crucial to bringing them together and keeping them focused. This will help to maintain peak productivity, output and performance while rebuilding trust, aiding recovery and boosting the morale of remaining employees.

Here’s our advice to help motivate employees after redundancies or staff reductions.

1. Communicate regularly

Be honest with your employees about why people were let go and help them understand the rationale for this decision. Talk to them regularly about what will happen next and the organisation’s plans for the future. Don’t leave them to fill in the blanks. People often fear the worst, so the truth may not be as bad as they think. Crucially, make sure you do not make promises you may not be able to keep.

2. Be visible

Now more than ever, your people need to know that the organisation is being steered by strong, confident leaders. Closed doors will only exacerbate fear or mistrust. Instead, create opportunities for your people to see and connect with you. Remain calm and have a positive view of the future.

3. Give people new goals

Help keep your employees focused by providing them with specific short-term goals to work towards. This will build confidence that there is a plan in place to move the organisation towards recovery and, in time, growth. Clearly show employees how their job will help the organisation recover so that they understand they have a vital role to play.

4. Make employees feel valued

Reassure staff of their value to the organisation. Have one-on-one conversations with your employees to ensure they feel appreciated and empowered to do their best. Focus on their recent successes, the importance of their contribution moving forward and how much you value their efforts in helping the organisation move out of the crisis and into recovery.

5. Don’t take personally any emotional reactions

It’s normal for employees to have an emotional reaction to staff reductions, which they may direct at you. They may be fearful, angry or sad and these emotions can manifest themselves in various ways. Don’t take this to heart. Instead, acknowledge that your people have lost a colleague, perhaps one they were close to. Give them time to deal with their sense of loss. Encourage them to speak to you openly and freely and give generously of your time to discuss any uncertainties they have. During these conversations, always be sincere.

6. Actively rebuild the sense of team

Losing people can have a dramatic impact on the dynamics of a team. To rectify this, hold regular team meetings to keep staff connected and plan informal team-building activities to help boost morale and relieve stress.

7. Understand the impact

Many people worry that they will be expected to take on the duties of departed colleagues. Work with your team to identify the non-essential or low-value tasks that can be put on hold or eliminated entirely, both from their own workload as well as that of departed staff. Then re-allocate the remaining work evenly. By removing non-critical tasks, the real impact is usually negligible. Regularly monitor workloads moving forward to ensure people do not become overwhelmed.

8. Involve those who remain in shaping the future

Give people an active role in the projects or activities ahead. This provides a sense of security and certainty about the future. Giving them a voice in how things move forward, such as asking for their involvement in decision-making, also builds a sense of ownership, motivates them towards something positive and fosters a commitment to seeing it through.

With these tips, you can keep your employees focused on the future, with new goals and priorities to work towards. By being honest and communicating regularly, your staff will understand the reasons for recent decisions and feel confident about the path the organisation is now taking. Crucially, your employees will feel valued and understand that they are playing an important part in ensuring the organisation can achieve future success.

Together, this will help motivate your workforce once more after a challenging period so that the organisation can recover as quickly as possible.

About this author

Nick Deligiannis, Managing Director, began working at Hays in 1993 and since then he has held a variety of consulting and management roles across the business. In 2004 he was appointed to the Hays Board of Directors. He was made Managing Director of Australia and New Zealand in 2012.

Prior to joining Hays, he had a background in human resource management and marketing, and has formal qualifications in Psychology.

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