How to Keep Your Employees Happy in a Difficult Economy

Apr 29, 2013

Photo by Pierre Bellemare

Photo by Pierre Bellemare

When I retired from the police department at the end of 2011, we had not had any pay raises in several years. As a supervisor and manager, I found it challenging to keep my officers motivated. Before the recession hit, most officers could count on some type of monetary raise every year, as long as their annual performance evaluation was acceptable. I have read the studies and know that money is not supposed to be the most important factor in job satisfaction. That may be true but five years without a raise does not make for happy employees!

After the recession hit and the county government quit authorizing any pay raises, officers became understandably frustrated. The annual performance evaluations now did not mean as much. There was no money tied to them. Most government jobs are very restrictive about how their employees are paid and managers seldom have the freedom to give pay raises or bonuses to deserving workers.

When this is the case, the supervisors and managers must become creative in looking for ways to reward their best performers. Here are a few suggestions of ways to keep your employees excited about coming to work.

1. Better Assignments. Giving employees more input into the type of work that they do can be very beneficial. This might be the time to let people try some different types of work, if that is possible. A little experimentation may also reveal hidden talents in some of your people. 

2. Thank You Cards. A personal note from the boss can mean a lot to people. When one of our people has done a really good job on a project or task, a thank you note is an excellent way to let them know that we noticed and appreciate their hard work. Many times over the years, I have been visiting one of my workers in their office and seen a thank you note that I wrote displayed prominently on their desk.

3. Public Acknowledgement. Praising one of our people in front of their peers is another excellent way to let them know that we appreciate them and value their contribution.

4. Throw a Party. One of the units that I managed at the police department had a party once a month. It was a covered dish lunch that was scheduled for the last Friday of every month. This was something we all looked forward to and it was also an opportunity to acknowledge the people who had had birthdays that month. In another unit that I managed, my Sergeants took it on themselves to buy pizza for the shift every few weeks. This may seem like a small thing, but it meant a lot to the officers.

5. Prizes. When I was a Lieutenant at one of our precincts, I was concerned about the low shooting scores of some of my officers. We had to qualify every quarter and several of my guys and girls struggled every time they shot. My three Sergeants and I chipped in a few bucks and bought a $25 restaurant gift card. The gift card was given to the officer that showed the most improvement each qualification.

When money becomes tight in an organization, it becomes the responsibility of supervisors, managers, and executives to become creative in ways to reward their employees. Most workers understand what a tough economy means for the organization. Most of them also sincerely appreciate when the people in charge look for other ways to express appreciation and gratitude for their hard work.

Can you think of any other creative ways to motivate and encourage your employees?

Annie and I are serving the Lord in Brazil. We are training leaders and helping plant churches throughout Brazil. Would you consider a one time gift or even consider joining our monthly support team? Just click here to get involved. Obrigado!

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