Keeping Morale Up in Down Times
Continue employee engagement to stay nimble for the future
As the world faces a global novel coronavirus pandemic, employee morale is one of the more challenging problems faced by businesses. Under normal circumstances, how workers feel about their jobs and workplace is vital to maintaining a strong and productive dental laboratory operation. Along with nearly all other businesses, the dental world is trying to maintain business continuity; nonetheless, regardless of industry, many have needed to furlough or lay off employees and/or have paused operations until the pandemic is brought under control. Social distancing is now in place to help battle the spread of COVID-19 and flatten the curve, but it leaves all employees—whether working from home or furloughed and waiting to return to the dental laboratory—experiencing uncertainty and low morale, which is to be expected.
Being uncertain about when the world will return to normalcy is fully understandable. However, communicating a positive outlook to your team can help keep your employees interested. Keep your staff updated about future projects or laboratory business objectives when business resumes to encourage continued engagement. With most laboratories currently closed, maintaining weekly check-in sessions with your team using Zoom or other web-based applications promotes continuity and involvement. Getting everyone’s perspective—how they feel, what they have been doing—and even reviewing outstanding client cases help you get a sense of how everyone is coping.
Assess your laboratory’s finances while operations have paused, but keep in mind that you should not make rash decisions about reducing or eliminating benefits. Instead, wait until you have fully analyzed what kind of assistance you may get from government programs that have been created for small businesses in these turbulent times. Most staff will understand that laboratories are not in a financial position to increase benefits because of the economic strain, but management should at least try to minimize any structural changes. Your staff is your most valuable resource, so retaining employee benefits will help keep employees from losing heart, even during these challenging times.
Employee morale has a long-term impact on turnover, the effort that staff put into their job, and their career trajectory. Sometimes a simple “thank you” will significantly improve an employee’s morale because the acknowledgement helps them feel recognized and appreciated. There is a delicate balancing act going on now with almost all businesses. Keeping the business solvent while dealing with the daily financial struggles and paying attention to the existing staff’s morale are of the utmost importance.
We are all in this together and need to support each other during this crisis; the more communication you maintain with your staff and others in your life, the more impactful it will be. Employee morale will be redefined as priorities evolve, but there will also be a readjustment period when this resolves; staying flexible for the future will require tactful thinking. Prior to the pandemic, assessing employee morale from time to time was a good metric to use in order to strategize improvements and retain or improve your workforce. In the postpandemic world, this will be combined with the need to get business back on track. The more you engage with your active workers and maintain communication with furloughed staff, the better off you will be when you can bring everyone back to the laboratory. In these uncertain times, it is more important than ever to try and maintain employee morale, so that your organization can come back in full force once this crisis ends.
About the Author
Brian Forman is a Human Resources Generalist with Atelier 4 in Long Island City, New York.