22/07/2011

By Sharon Goldie, Consultant at Assistive Technology Specialist Iansyst Ltd

Results from a new Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) survey highlights the fact that the current climate is not only affecting business profits, it is also affecting staff morale, with staff satisfaction rates at their lowest since the survey began in 2009.

Further research carried out by mental health charity, MIND, revealed that 41% of people feel stressed in their job, with seven out of ten feeling that their boss would not help them cope with stress. If, as these survey results suggest, staff morale does begin to suffer before action has been taken by management, then the effects on an organisation can be clear for all to see. Companies rely on their staff for the day-to-day running of the organisation and if morale is low then this severely impacts on the whole organisation.

In the current unstable climate and with staff confidence in job security decreasing, it is vital that Human Resources (HR) implement appropriate training and policies to ensure that staff feel valued, encouraging an organisation to function to its full potential. With results from MIND also showing that levels of trust between employers and employees are falling, it is essential that HR and management do all that they can to ensure employee satisfaction in the workplace and, as a result, reap the benefits of a satisfied and therefore productive workforce.

Sharon Goldie suggests the following seven tips to help HR Managers ensure that employees remain satisfied in the workplace:

1. Encourage high levels of communication:

Nobody likes feeling like they are being left in the dark; ensure that there are high levels of communication between employees and managerial staff on both a one-to-one basis and as part of group meetings. By ensuring that everybody knows what developments are happening within an organisation and what is expected of them, staff can be working together and working towards the same targets.

2. Be accessible to staff:

High levels of communication also highlight an accessible management system, meaning that staff feel more supported and therefore have more confidence in their managerial staff. Meetings also provide an opportunity for any issues to be brought up and resolved quickly and efficiently, ensuring that they are not given the time to develop into something more serious.

3. Encourage management to acknowledge achievements and set targets:

Feeling valued is one the most important factors contributing to high levels of staff satisfaction. Make sure that your staff know how much they are valued within the company and be sure to highlight their achievements. As people, we are motivated by targets. Encourage managers to set reasonable targets for staff to meet so that they are both aware of the direction the company is moving in. Acknowledge when those targets have been reached and highlight the positive effects that it has had on the organisation.

4. Be flexible and offer alternatives:

If staff are stressed or worried about factors outside of the workplace, such as childcare, travel costs or caring for a relative, they will not be able to dedicate themselves fully to their roles. Employees each have individual circumstances and, if it is feasible, try to be flexible to accommodate them. Offers of working from home, altering working hours or potentially working part-time to help employees to deal with circumstances outside of the workplace will show them how valued they are and, as a result, they will be able to dedicate themselves fully and effectively to their time spent in the workplace. In fact, studies have shown that of businesses that offer flexible working options, 42% reported that it had a positive effect on labour turnover.

5. Spot the signs of mental health and implement an effective mental health policy:

With the recent survey results in mind, and the fact that there are often links between economic downturn and increased rates of mental health difficulties, it is important that HR implement an effective mental health policy. It is also incredibly important that signs of mental health difficulty are spotted early to prevent them from developing and to also offer sufficient support. If an employee’s behaviour changes dramatically, or they are suddenly unable to cope with their usual workload, HR should be contacted for advice which they must be fully prepared to offer.

For staff to be satisfied at work it is vital that they have the support of their management, whatever it is that they are going through. By enforcing a mental health policy and ensuring that the management is open to communication, staff should feel that they are fully supported by their employer.

6. Invest in staff development:

If budgets allow, suggest appropriate training schemes for staff, showing that the company is confident investing both time and money into them to help them develop in their roles, giving employees confidence in both their position within the company and also their job security.

7. Socialise:

Similarly, if budgets allow, make some time for socialising or bonding outside of the workplace. By being accessible and approachable in a relaxed environment, staff will feel assured that they have the full support of HR and the management team and this will ensure that there is no staff divide. Social events will also give employees an opportunity to communicate with their peers, opening the channels of communication, and therefore productivity, in the workplace.