Employee engagement isn’t an issue in hard times…or is it?

The hard decisions have been made to consolidate your workforce to ensure your business continues to survive in an uncertain and volatile market. However the future remains uncertain for both you and your employees and so there is no better time than now to engage with the employees you have identified as the most critical.  Their well-being needs to be your priority.

But why does employee engagement matter now?

Tough times call for tough measures, and employee engagement and well-being may be considered ‘soft’ topics.  However, if you have been forced to reduce staffing to minimum levels, service delivery may be severely impacted if you lose anyone else.  In ‘tough times’, productivity and profits are crucial, and the emotional buy-in and commitment by your employees, to your business objectives, becomes even more of a priority. 

Engagement Drives Results

It is no surprise that employees who experience a sense of belonging, purpose and integration within their workplace, are more likely to be motivated and produce quality work for your business.

Research has proven that highly engaged employees are less likely to be affected by change and, in times of uncertainty, engagement can serve as an anchor.

So how do I engage employees …with no spare cash?

Effectively engaging your employee does not have to cost you a cent:

  1. 1.     Demonstrate and Encourage Sound Leadership

Nothing matters more than good leadership.  We develop connections with people and our managers/supervisors are an important part of the equation.  Consider who you have leading your teams – do they… Inspire? Communicate the vision? Provide effective feedback? Lead by example? If you answered No to some of these questions it might be time to develop who you have at the helm.

  1. 2.     Deliver Recognition and Feedback

Recognition does not have to be in the form of monetary rewards.  Your employees are well aware of the market downturn, with the majority grateful for their job and not expecting the bonuses or salary increases they may have received in the past.  However, you can demonstrate you value your employees by being generous with your praise for quality work or noticing additional hours worked.  Look out for employees who go the extra mile and provide recognition and feedback where it is due.    

  1. 3.     Provide Interesting Work

In today’s market, training and development budgets are almost non-existent. Develop your employees by challenging them with new work and responsibilities outside of their current role?  If you have made some roles redundant, offer remaining staff the opportunity to be trained to learn and take on some of these duties?  Presented in a positive way, this can be extremely empowering for an employee, validating trust and their position in the business as well as enabling you to observe their capability, and future potential.

What about FIFO workers and their well-being?

Approximately twelve months ago, the Western Australian Parliamentary Committee released a report calling on all employers to acknowledge and respond to the increased prevalence of mental health problems amongst FIFO workers.  It is clear that the FIFO workforce require special consideration when it comes to supporting their well-being. FIFO employees endure a number of hardships which most other employees are not privy to.

Perhaps the problem lies in the separation of FIFO employees from the rest of the business – often viewed as a standalone cohort – the solution may lie in being inclusive and banding together when it matters most.  Strongly engaging FIFO employees into the business may be the first step in addressing their mental well-being as well as continuing to provide access to sound Employee Assistance Programs. 

Many businesses may have been forced to consider different roster options which may see FIFO employees away for longer and at home less. Given the debate over their current employment conditions, there is no simple solution. However, it is even more crucial for businesses to adopt a proactive approach to engage with their FIFO employees using the strategies outlined above.

It is no secret that businesses have had to make some tough and unpopular decisions over the last twelve months. Challenging times can often cause unrest and tension amongst your staff and there is no better time than the present to reassure your employees that they matter.  The decision to actively engage with your staff may be the most satisfying one you make today and the most beneficial for your business over time.


Contact WCA Solutions- People & Culture Solutions if you require any assistance with Human Resources and Industrial Relations on (08) 9383 3293 or


Open-Book Coaching
I agree that engagement does not have to cost you anything. In fact, it can be self funding, as was the case with my work at BHP Billiton as well as a midsized privately held company north of Brisbane. Treating employees like adults, involving them in the economics of the business, helping them to think and act like business partners, consistently drives profitable growth and a sustainable competitive advantage. The information engages their minds, and the trust engages their hearts.

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