More With Less
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How to Ask Your Team to Do More with Less

Ask The Expert

By Barbara Mitchell

Q: I am constantly being told to cut my budget and ask my hardworking staff to do more with less. How can I keep their morale up while I add to their workload as resources shrink?

A:This is such a difficult issue, and a lot of us have to face it head on. Budgets are cut, staff openings go unfilled, and we expect the staff we have left to be more productive than ever. This takes some real managerial skill. It starts by building trust.

Consider no- or low-cost incentive programs to reward your high performers or offer flexible work arrangements to ward off stress in overworked staffers.

If your organization has recently downsized or is facing a budget shortfall, it is critical to treat staff as valued team members and create an environment where they feel safe to speak up. Of course, good managers always do this anyway, but at a time when you are asking your team to do more with less, it is even more critical. Your staff members need to know that you understand what you are asking of them and that they can come to you for support at any time. Tell them that you have their back but there may be things out of your control.

This is a great time to err on the side of over-communicating to keep your team up to date on what’s going on at the association. You may want to consider no- or low-cost incentive programs to reward your high performers or offer flexible work arrangements to ward off stress in overworked staffers.

Also, consider if there are changes you can make to gain efficiency or eliminate unproductive routines or processes. Ask your team:

  • What are we doing particularly well?
  • What could we do better?
  • What are we currently doing that, if we stopped doing it, would not affect the organization’s productivity?

This exercise is a way to clear the clutter—all those reports or meetings that have become routine but aren’t moving you forward. Stop them and put that time to better use.

Barbara Mitchell is a human resources and management consultant and author of The Big Book of HR. Do you have a question you’d like her to answer in “Ask the Expert”? Send it to [email protected].

Performance Management