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How to Boost Company Morale Even During Employee Furloughs, According to Experts

Companies across the footwear industry have been forced to make difficult choices regarding their workforce as sales dip and stores close. Whether laying off, furloughing or reducing the pay of employees, these decisions can negatively impact company morale. With sustained communication and empathy from leadership, however, experts believe that this damage can be mitigated.

“The reality of distributed teams is making it tough to maintain morale,” said Jordan Ekers, co-founder of Nudge Rewards, a mobile platform to engage and motivate sales staff. “By leveraging digital communication channels, organizations can build a virtual community and better support their people through uncertain times; furloughed staff are connected and aligned with the culture, values, and mission of their organization.”

Miri Rodriguez, author and global head of internships at Microsoft, agrees on the importance of maintaining company values throughout the coronavirus pandemic. Just as companies are able to foster loyalty — for both staff and consumers — through the introduction of robust social responsibility programs and sustainability commitments, they can now apply these principles to address the effects of the global health crisis. For instance, demonstrating social responsibility could look like choosing to furlough instead of laying off staff members or choosing to keep employees on staff but reducing pay across the board.

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Regardless of the ultimate decision made, communicating the reasoning and reality of the company’s choices can help employees feel valued and included, even if they are not actively working. “In the last few years, most brands have tuned into the idea of ‘humanizing’ themselves by exerting personal attributes, becoming more vulnerable in their brand story and even more approachable to their stakeholders,” said Rodriguez. “If during this time of pressure, they appear to go back to their ‘corporate,’ less human ways, any progress they would have made up until now may be futile.”

As experts advise, maintaining company values shows empathy and consideration to the staff. Furthermore, this consistency can have an impact on the bottom line, now and once the pandemic has ended. For consumers making purchasing decisions based on a brand’s ethics, they might choose not to return if these ethics aren’t demonstrated to employees during times of crisis. Similarly, if employees aren’t treated fairly, then it may prove more difficult to recruit for new hires in the future and more expensive to onboard them.

“Studies show it costs at least 30% more to replace someone, due to training costs, etc.,” said Dan Khasis, founder and CEO of Route4Me, a shipping efficiency platform. As hiring and training new staff is already an added business expense, experts such as Khasis recommend avoiding this route if possible. “Every person you fire will cost at least 130% to replace, assuming there isn’t a massive drop in hourly rates.”

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