Organizational Success During Times of Economic Stress
With the specter of a looming “economic downturn” upon us, many business leaders are being forced to tighten their belts and rethink their future expenditures. During times like this, off-site retreats and holiday parties are doubtless going to take a lower priority. The irony is now – when things are most challenging for both businesses and their clients – it is even more vital that we motivate staff and create a work environment that fosters healthy risk-taking and creative thinking. Now is the time for those in charge to plan for change and invest in strategies that foster innovation rather than cutting everything but the bare essentials.
Creating an environment of openness and an opportunity to communicate and share new ideas can be done without spending a great deal of money. A few simple things can go a long way toward fostering creativity in the workplace. Here are a few suggestions:
- Create a “suggestion box” that is available to all employees. The key next step will be to actually follow up on those suggestions and to implement those that are even remotely useful and realistic. Generate interest in participation by shedding light on the suggestions (both good and bad) at a quarterly staff meeting. When people feel that their suggestions are being heard, they are more likely to make suggestions and feel appreciated.
- Reward staff with a quarterly “Appreciation Day” in which the successes of individuals within the organization are recognized, appreciated, and rewarded. Rewards don’t necessarily have to be monetary, but the appreciation should be genuine.
- Maintain an “open-door” policy with regard to staff-manager relationships. Encourage the staff to give feedback to managers – both negative and positive – whenever this feedback can have benefit. The next (and incredibly important) step is to encourage the management to truly listen to staff feedback. Often managers are oblivious to the way their actions are perceived by the people around them. If people are made aware of how their actions affect others, they can often implement small behavior modifications that make dramatic improvements in employee morale and productivity.
- Encourage creativity and ideation during strategic planning meetings through the use of experiential tools such as “brainstorming,” “mind-mapping,” music, colorful pens or crayons, rolls of butcher paper, etc… Experience-based meetings give many team members a chance to step out of their normal “comfort zone” and lower the inhibitions that prevent creative thought.
- Plan a quarterly team energizing event, either as an on-site portable team challenge or as an off-site retreat. The focus should be on fun, and the team should be encouraged to relax with one another and get to know each other in new and unusual situations – not simply the day-to-day work relationship of the office.
This is an exciting time, with great opportunities for the organization that is able to adapt. The most successful companies are those that do not sit back and run on auto-pilot. The best companies find a way to take stock of what is working and what is not working in their organizations, taking time to streamline their processes and create innovation where they can. Economic downturn spells opportunity for the company that has the foresight to innovate and adapt to an uncertain future. Don’t let fear and uncertainty keep your organization from moving boldly forward!