How do you keep your research department happy in a challenging economy?

Editor’s note: Karen Morgan is president of Morgan Search, a Santa Monica, Calif., recruitment firm specializing in the marketing research industry.

Working in the realm of recruiting and placing marketing researchers, we have a front-row view of what is happening in many research departments across the country. In many instances, people are feeling undervalued, underpaid and overworked.

Some companies genuinely cannot afford to hire due to budgetary constraints. However, others are certainly taking advantage of the current economic climate and are running departments with fewer people when they could in fact afford to hire additional talent.

So how are some companies managing to maintain morale in their departments, in spite of the cutbacks?

Clear and open communication. Creating a genuine feeling that “we’re all in this together” is critical. People need to understand what is happening with the business – the challenges, the goals and the vision for the business moving forward. And there needs to be light at the end of the tunnel – it can’t be all doom and gloom. You need to inspire people and show them there is opportunity in spite of the challenges. People need to see senior executives are also making sacrifices for the business along with everyone else. This means they’re also working harder than ever, not receiving bonuses when employees aren’t, disappearing on expensive vacations, etc.

Get creative. People feel valued primarily if their efforts are recognized and appreciated. So if this cannot be demonstrated in a pay increases or bonuses right now, offer some alternative benefits. For example, give people the option to telecommute one or two days a week; let them work flex hours; give them some extra time off if you see they’ve been working late on a project. Make sure you’re communicating that you appreciate their efforts and that there are rewards and opportunities as the business climate improves.

Businesses that feel their employees should have the “I’m lucky to have a job” attitude are in danger of losing their best talent and will be left scrambling to hire once things improve. This is a small community and people talk. Do you want to be known as a great company to work for or a sweatshop? Hiring is challenging, expensive and time-consuming. The companies who are focusing now on how to maintain their top talent are way ahead of the game.

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One Response to How do you keep your research department happy in a challenging economy?

  1. Greg Timpany says:

    Seeing how I am a department of one, I keep myself happy by looking at new tools and techniques. For example, I recently took on a demo of Q. This appears to be a highly effective analytical software package. Also, webinars are a big part of my professional development. Lastly, networking with other research professionals both here in RDU and globally.


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