How to keep worker morale high, despite budget cuts

COVID-19 has forced HR leaders to make difficult financial decisions to help keep their businesses alive, but balancing financial necessities with employee satisfaction has proved to be difficult.

Because of the pandemic, salary and benefit cuts have been widespread across industries, presenting an inherent challenge to employee engagement. Compounding that issue, the Society for Human Resource Management found that 65% of employers said virtual working has made maintaining employee morale problematic. To overcome this obstacle, Lorrie Lykins, vice president of research at i4cp, says employers should listen to the needs of their employees and encourage them to maintain some form of normalcy.

“More than anything, employers need to pay close attention to their employees, really listen and help them navigate this situation in the ways that are most helpful and meaningful to them.”

“More than anything, employers need to pay close attention to their employees, really listen and help them navigate this situation in the ways that are most helpful and meaningful to them,” she says. “If that means further flexing schedules, encouraging employees to block time on their calendars so that they can decompress, etc., that’s what matters most in terms of keeping up morale.”

Related: HRE’s Number of the Day: employee morale

According to Lykins, HR leaders should be working to maintain workplace culture, despite all the disruptions that COVID presents.

“Focusing on holistically supporting the wellbeing of employees—which includes physical health, emotional/mental health, financial stability, connection to the community, career development and social/relational health—is critical,” she says.

According to a study conducted by employee communications platform Smarp, 74% of employees say they would take a pay cut for a new job with a thriving culture that is ideal for their growth. In order to keep morale up and employees engaged, Lykins says, HR leaders have to create an environment where employees will not only feel comfortable but also work productively.

While that will be a challenge, it is also an opportunity for enhanced communication among HR leaders and employees. Rivka Liss Levinson, director of research at the nonprofit Center of State and Local Government Excellence, recently spoke with District Administration about how the actions of leaders today will have lasting impacts on their employees, well beyond the pandemic.

“While there is a need to make cuts, there will be short- and long-term impacts, so leaders need to pay attention and be thoughtful as they navigate through these difficult economic times,” she told DA. “It’s important to think about the value that employees are placing on their work and what is motivating them to do the best job they can.”

Related: 3 ways HR can support culture through the ‘new normal’

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