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Premature to count on financial turnaround

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Carrie Bowe Carrie Bowe
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Carrie Bowe is director of marketing and business development for Clayman & Associates PLLC of Charleston. The clinical and forensic psychologists and staff at Clayman & Associates perform assessments and interventions for comprehensive, data-driven and clear solutions for complex problems.

"So far in 2013, overall employment in the financial sector has risen by just under 1 percent, close to the rate for the overall economy. But the financial sector remains about 6 percent smaller than it was at its peak in late 2006, while total employment is down by less than 1 percent over the same period, according to the Labor Department's survey of employers." (New York Times, Aug. 21, 2013).

Despite the optimistic upturn of employment numbers, public opinion and other studies indicate that it may be a bit premature to count on a financial turnaround just yet — especially in light of the recent government shutdown. With increased international issues, legislative pressure and consumer discontent, there is still a long way to go to steer the economic ship in the right direction. 

With this overarching problem quite evident, it is reasonable to detect how these issues would trickle down to impact those working in the financial industry — hopeful statistics or not. 

According to Huffington Post-Politics (Aug. 28, 2013), a confidential survey of roughly 400 Federal Reserve employees shows a workforce that is demoralized, an institution where teamwork is nonexistent, innovation and creativity are discouraged and personnel feel underutilized — in an industry where employees are seemingly distrustful of their bosses, afraid to speak out and feel isolated.

An unstable environment causes a tumultuous, cyclical relationship between employers and their employees. Employees tend to be timid about investing time and energy into an unstable industry or organization. Even announcing the intent to reduce the workforce, as some financial firms have done recently, can distract workers, hurt recruiting efforts and prompt top performers to head for the exit.

And while conventional wisdom suggests a bigger and better financial package, retirement plan and/or monetary bonus for employee satisfaction and retainment, those types of rewards are no longer available in many cases. So, what can companies, regardless of the industry, do to encourage employee confidence, trust and loyalty in an uncertain market?

 

  • Talk It Out: Effective bosses must be effective communicators, period. Management/employee relationships are among the most important within any organization, and communication leads to better and stronger relationships. Accessibility and candidness go a long way in cultivating trust, reliability and buy-in. Open lines of communication allow each individual within the organization to be on the same page about expectations, processes, decisions and the like. 
  • Walk It Out: Talk is cheap, so bosses must not only talk the talk but walk the walk. Showing employees that you practice what you preach and have been in their shoes will not only build your credibility but will build belief in your company. Employees appreciate being heard but not as much as being understood. 
  • Clear as Crystal: In the communication of all decisions within an organization, companies should strive for transparency. Transparency is assurance and assurance builds trust. Being consistently open and honest is a sure way to earn employee allegiance. And consistency is key. Just as investors steer clear of companies that lack transparency in their business operations, financial statements and strategies, so will employees. 
  • R.E.S.P.E.C.T.: It's not just a '60s hit song. A little respect goes a long way with your team. When employees feel like you appreciate the work they are doing, chances are they will continually strive to do that work to the best of their ability. Feeling valued and appreciated is one of the most noted motivators of employee productivity. 
  • The "I" in Team – Involvement: While the final say must understandably be made by upper-level management, allowing employees of every level to be involved in certain decisions can give them a sense of ownership and investment in the company. Considering opinions and needs can go a long way to instill worth and importance. Getting input from employees about the operations of your company is a great way to show them that you respect them both professionally and personally. 
  • The Right Employee, The Right Fit: Maybe it's not the condition of the economy at all. Sometimes, the motivational issue with an employee is that he/she simply doesn't fit the corporate culture or the position. It is critically important that you take necessary measures to ensure that you hire the best possible people for the roles in your organization. Effective pre-hire assessments can help in determining a good fit. If the person isn't right for the culture or the job, they won't last no matter how many bonuses or pats on the back you offer.