Bosses: You Still Need to Boost Employee Morale

By Joyce M. Rosenberg, AP Business Writer

NEW YORK (AP) — In the early months of the recession, human resources consultants advised small business owners to take steps to boost their employees' morale, or risk losing them when the economy got better.

That advice still stands.

As the economy weakens, many small companies still aren't able to give out raises. Many are still increasing workloads instead of hiring new staffers. All this is certain to take a toll on employees' already sagging morale.

HR consultants say taking time to talk with your staff and listen to their concerns will go a long way toward helping you keep them. It might also help you make their jobs easier -- and make them more productive.

Talk is Not Cheap

Perhaps the most important thing you can do to help morale is "acknowledging the stresses and circumstances that your employees are feeling," says Arlene Vernon, president of HRx Inc, an Eden Prairie, Minn.-based HR consultancy.

That may sound familiar, because it's the sort of advice consultants were giving out during the financial crisis. They suggested company owners walk around the office, factory or selling floor and talk to workers. Ask them how things are going. Listen to them vent about the economy. See if they have questions about the company.

These chats may not seem important, but they do go a long way toward helping employees feel better. If workers have to sit on their feelings and just put on a bright face all the time, they're just bottling up unhappiness and that can be a big morale-buster.

Employees also need to feel that they're really being listened to, not patronized. That means you need to take in what your workers are saying, and if they are upset about their jobs, see what the problem is and what you can do to help.