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What’s Your Economic Stimulus Plan?

The “Bailout” – is it $ 750 billion? Is it $ 900 billion? Is it more Democratic? More Republican? Does it have enough to “stimulate” or is it mostly pork? (I think pigs get a bad rap!)

I am just about ready to give up my ritualistic morning read of the Wall Street Journal. Old habits die hard, I know, but I have had enough economic bad news to last me a lifetime. I’m maxed out – at my limit – and have decided I am going “cold turkey.” Good-bye Journal, CNBC, MSN Finance and all you other bearers of bad news. I’m finding enough bad news on my own, thank you.

For example, just last week my distraught step daughter had to lay off seven people in her department as her company experienced a 10% worldwide reduction in force. For her, this means she has to do more with less; has to produce almost the same amount of work with less employees, and has to ask more of those remaining employees.

Like her, the hiring managers we work with are also being challenged to do more with less. They are being called on to reduce their workforce, yet keep up, or even increase, their marketing efforts or sales levels at the same time. It seems everyone I know is working harder and harder, for the same or smaller results. This does not make for happy managers or happy employees.

PORK OR PERK?

Like their managers, I think most employees are feeling the strain of the uncertainty of our truly global economy and how (and when) it will eventually affect them. That’s why I think that it’s more important than ever to make a sincere effort to appreciate those employees you have in your company. And while everyone has a difference of opinion about what is pork and what is perk right now, if your budget is strained, there are some things you can do to raise employee morale without passing an act in Congress. Here are a few…

Keep Employees in the Loop: Nothing is more detrimental to productivity than not knowing what is going on. Hearsay and gossip rush in to fill the void when there is no real information. Keep your group “in the loop” on company plans as much as you can. If you don’t have any information to share, reassure them there are no new directives coming at this time. Ask them to come to you FIRST for confirmation or denial if they hear anything out there on the “rumor mill.”

Reward Them with “Soft” Benefits: While everyone’s budget is being strained, there are ways to let your employees know that they are valued that won’t break the bank. Here are a few:

• Personal Time: Nothing costs you less than giving a valued employee a day or two of personal time, especially if that employee is over-quota in sales, hitting their targets on their marketing programs, etc. You get the point. And, if you make it on a Friday or Monday, they have a nice long weekend.

• Travel Perks: Suggest that your super salesperson take an extra day on her next trip to “unwind” before or after that important sales presentation or meeting. Even the most modest of hotel chains will have an exercise room or day-spa. Encourage mind-body health (that’s yours as well as theirs!).

• Stock Options: For the senior members of your team, take this opportunity to review your current stock option plans. While there is no immediate payout, this is an excellent way to tell your team that you truly appreciate their dedicated efforts in such an extraordinary time. There are precious few boards who would not appreciate this approach and who would not approve.

• Keep it Light: It’s more important than ever to remember that camaraderie goes a long way towards keeping employee morale high. Remember to have that TGIF beer on Friday after work, have a pizza lunch or maybe even host an informal, after-hours get together. People who work together in stressful situations appreciate the opportunity to get to know their colleagues in a situation that’s not filled with stress.

Speak Your Appreciation: I’ve written this before and I feel like I just can’t write it enough. There is nothing – nothing – that is appreciated more than a heartfelt, sincere thank-you. Telling a valued employee that you appreciate his hard work and efforts and look forward to the day when the pressure isn’t quite as intense is as genuine as it gets.

Betsy Harper (betsy@smsearch.com) is the CEO and Managing Partner of Sales and Marketing Search, a nationwide recruiting firm based in the Boston area that specializes in recruiting top sales and marketing talent.

More valuable information on finding, hiring, and keeping top talent in your company can be found at http://www.salesandmarketingsearch.com.

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