7 Tips to Increase Productivity During a Hiring Freeze

Knowing that you’re doing more with less doesn’t typically inspire productivity in any office, and the recent federal hiring freeze is no exception. But, government can’t stop because it can’t hire, and there are a multitude of services that can’t be pushed aside simply because an agency doesn’t have the manpower.

Working with your team to increase productivity is vital at any point in time, but becomes even more important when you know that, for at least a period of time, you likely won’t have any new members to add to your team. Below are seven tips for increasing productivity within your team during a hiring freeze.

  1. Reduce fear: Hiring freezes can make employees feel like their own jobs are in jeopardy or that they’ll be forced into doing twice the amount of work currently on their already overloaded plates. These feelings can quickly decrease morale and, in turn, productivity. To reduce fear, meet with your employees one-on-one and address their individual concerns head on. Is someone concerned about job security? Remind them that you value their contribution to the team and will do everything in your power to keep them on staff. Or, is someone worried about an increase in work? Explain that everyone in the team will be working together to divide and conquer priority tasks. No one will be tackling the hiring freeze alone.
  2. Keep your team strong: Employees tend to be more productive when they feel as though they are contributing to a larger purpose. If your team or agency goals have not changed, take this opportunity to pull your employees together and remind them of what the agency is working toward. Or, if a change in leadership has introduced new goals, clearly outline what your team’s part in this goal will be, and the importance of each individual’s contribution toward meeting this goal. Offer regular updates to your team on their progress toward either the overarching agency goal, or smaller, easier to obtain goals, to keep them focused on the end result and help them see in black and white that the work they produce has a positive impact.
  3. Be a hard worker: If your staff see their boss working hard and supporting them, they’re more likely to reciprocate than if you’re in your office with the door closed every day and leaving early. Remember to exemplify high morale and a strong work ethic, even on the days when you’re not feeling so happy or motivated yourself.
  4. Encourage creativity: Hold brown bag lunch brainstorming sessions with your team to determine where inefficiencies lie with your current processes, or where there are barriers to success. Then ask your team to develop ideas to overcome these challenges. As possible, allow them to implement, revise, and re-implement their solutions until the right answer is found.
  5. Find each worker’s intrinsic motivators: Sit down with each employee and ask why that individual came to your agency. What motivated them to join the public sector? Why do they enjoy working on your team? What are their personal and career goals? As you start to learn about these motivators, consider realigning your team to match each employee with the work that he or she likes best. Staff are more productive, and produce better work, when they’re assigned to something they are passionate about.
  6. Recognize your staff: There’s no need for costly awards or celebrations (especially when hiring freezes are intended to help control budgets), but it is important to recognize them for the work that they do, particularly if they take on more tasks to make up for staffing shortages. Bring in donuts, have a potluck, or simply gather everyone together and talk about how hard each member of the team has been working and how that work is helping the team or agency reach its desired results. If it’s within your power, go a step further and offer larger rewards to your best performers, such as the opportunity to work a flex schedule or telecommute.
  7. Never stop communicating: While the first couple months after a hiring freeze are vital for rallying the troops, the importance of ongoing communication should not be forgotten. Whether it’s by email or at an all-staff meeting, keep your team informed of the specifics about the hiring freeze (Is your department now exempt? Is it due to end in the near future? Do you have plans in place to hire new staff once the freeze is lifted and, if so, what is your expectation for those new staff/what role will they fill?). These touch points can be paired with cheerleading sessions to remind your staff of how well they’re doing despite the pressure of a hiring freeze.

How are you rallying the troops during the current hiring freeze? Let us know in the comments!

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Howard Stoller

You might also want to bear in mind that there are also no absolute hiring freezes as the functions of government must go on and people do not typically leave from positions that are superfluous, but from ones that directly affect the public. There are usually exceptions for health and safety positions, revenue producing positions, etc. However, we might have to go through more justifications to get them filled.