From what I’m seeing on blogs and nings, especially the employee engagement ning, business leaders are very worried about how to maintain or increase employee engagement in a recession. Jen Schulte, the Global Engagement Director for Mars, a $30 billion global food brands company, has advice for these leaders based on what she does at Mars.  This is the message she sent to employees (managers and “associates”):

This is a turbulent time – there are many changes going on within our business as well as economic and other external pressures our associates are facing.  Now is the time to talk with each other, reflect back on what has been done to drive associate engagement over the past few months and recognize where we need to refocus.  It is important during times like these to recognize engagement as an opportunity to build trust and restore hope in the future.

Schulte is emphasizing the importance of the relationship between a manager and his/her direct reports. She is saying that managers must communicate a message to employees that builds trust and hope, essential elements of employee engagement. We humans are troubled by uncertainty more than just about anything else. Without trust and hope, uncertainty is intensified. By paying attention to what employees need in order to feel engaged, including trust and hope, managers contribute to a sense of control and predictability that is often absent when economic conditions are as harsh as they are now.