If you're like most employers, you had pretty severe layoffs about a year ago, and are just thankful you haven't had to let anyone go since. But look around. The all-for-one attitude among surviving employees has likely dissipated. You're left with a stressed, overworked staff who can't remember their last raises.
Don't kid yourself-people won't work under these conditions forever, notes Richard Hadden, employee relations expert and author of Contented Cows Give Better Milk (Saltillo Press). "Even though there's a cease-fire in the talent war, in the next few years, there will be far more jobs than people to fill them. People working [long hours], [who've] neglected their family and neglected their health-those people [will be] the first to jump ship."
Short of giving raises you can't afford, Hadden suggests being more flexible with schedules-as in not freaking when an employee takes time to care for a child or comes in late. "If leaders ask a whole lot more, they need to provide additional support," says Hadden. Consider organizing a group to pool child-care resources or adopting flex hours.
Employers also need to offer a light at the end of the tunnel by formulating a plan for hiring new staff to ease the burden. Share the plan with employees, "whether it's based on revenue per head, when overtime gets bad, when the bill from the temp agency gets too high, etc.," says Marc Drizin, vice president and employee loyalty specialist at Walker Information Inc. in Indianapolis. Communication is the key here; employees need to know not only what the problems are, but what solutions are being applied.