How to Keep Morale Up During a Hiring Freeze

If your organization is facing a hiring freeze, try these methods to maintain and increase employee engagement, satisfaction, and well-being.

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How to Keep Morale Up During a Hiring Freeze

Here's what you need to know:

  • Communicate early, often, and throughout a hiring freeze
  • Prioritize employee engagement, satisfaction, and well-being during a hiring freeze
  • Focus on internal growth and promotion and consider profit-share bonuses for employees
  • Utilize employee engagement surveys in the wake of a hiring freeze to catch fresh challenges and concerns

There’s no question about it — a hiring freeze is way better than layoffs. But that doesn’t mean that hiring freezes aren’t still troubling to your employees. Even if your hiring freeze is a temporary response to external factors like skyrocketing inflation, it’s still stressful for everyone involved.

Because hiring freezes have been associated with financial struggles, the threat of losing a job can plummet morale. And it makes sense — if you’re worried that your job is in jeopardy, you’re going to look for other options. And looking for other options means you aren’t as enthusiastic about your current job.

But that doesn’t always have to be the case. It takes intention, but morale doesn’t have to drop during a hiring freeze.

Perhaps this is your first hiring freeze as a manager or in a leadership position and you’re not sure how to navigate it. Maybe you’ve been through plenty before but know that it never hurts to stay on top of what can boost morale during trying times.

Whatever the reason, here are a few ways to keep morale up during a hiring freeze.

Communicate early, often, and throughout the hiring freeze

A hiring freeze is going to be way more shocking and concerning if it comes out of nowhere. Communication throughout the process can help immensely. This includes the time before a hiring freeze is officially declared.

When you know that a hiring freeze is on the table, let your company know. That way they have time to process the potential change and it will be less of a jolt if it actually does come to pass.

Give frequent updates about the hiring freeze and how long it’s expected to last.

Then, communicate often throughout the process. Be available to answer any and all of your employees’ concerns honestly and openly.

Give frequent updates about the hiring freeze and how long it’s expected to last. Share as much as you can about the reasons behind the hiring freeze. Share what you can about what the company is doing to resolve the issues that are causing it.

If your hiring freeze ends up getting extended, take the same approach of communicating about it as early as possible. An open door policy for questions and concerns is pretty much always a good idea.

Prioritize employee engagement and satisfaction

Unfortunately, hiring freezes don’t usually mean a freeze in the amount of work that needs to get done. Sometimes the amount of work continues to increase even during a hiring freeze and it has to be absorbed by someone. And those someones are your current employees.

Naturally, more work for the same pay is not ideal. Changes like this can cause employee satisfaction and engagement to nosedive, taking company morale along with it. That’s why a hiring freeze is an important time to prioritize employee engagement and satisfaction.

It’s a good idea to send out an employee satisfaction and employee engagement survey in the wake of a hiring freeze. This lets you catch fresh challenges and concerns.

Armed with real-time information, you can set out to address employee concerns as best as possible. The more you’re able to keep employee engagement and employee satisfaction up, the more likely morale is to stay up, too.

Focus on employee well-being during a hiring freeze

In addition to focusing on employee engagement and satisfaction, you should also keep an eye on employee well-being.

As WellSteps points out, low employee morale can often come from stress and a lack of support. Employees need “a clear view of their value, potential, and aspirations as individuals and as part of a team. When those needs are overlooked, they begin to feel low, lose focus, and feel physically and mentally lethargic.” That’s where focusing on your employees’ mental and physical health comes in.

If you don’t already have a wellness program in place, now is a good time to start one. The pandemic has been stressful for everyone.

Now, just as things are sort of going back to normal, a hiring freeze shakes things up yet again. To mitigate the stress that can get in the way of morale, offer mental health benefits.

This can mean anything from including therapy in your benefits coverage or offering other mental health services. This could mean anything from Headspace subscriptions to an extra mental health day or 2.

The same goes for physical wellness. Some people prefer to sweat out their stress. So, offer up subsidized or fully covered gym memberships and the like.

But if times are financially tough, it doesn’t mean you’re totally out of luck. You could hire a meditation or yoga instructor to come by the office every week or every month. You can organize company runs in the morning or walks during lunch.

If you get creative, there are plenty of free and easy ways to focus on employee well-being during a hiring freeze.

Focus on internal growth and promotion of workers

Just because you can’t hire people from outside the company during a hiring freeze doesn’t mean you can’t promote from within. This is especially true if a hiring freeze is likely to lead to the elimination of open positions your company had going into it.

If your workers are absorbing extra responsibilities, it’s only right to promote and compensate them accordingly. It can be tough to think about giving out raises when times are tough, but a mass exodus of unhappy employees is bound to cost you more.

While far from ideal, if you can’t offer an increase in pay with a promotion, be clear about when you will be able to. Then stick to that schedule. If promotions aren’t in the cards right now, focus on growth and mentorship opportunities.

The more you can help your employees to feel like they’re developing the skills and experience they want on the job, the better. If you’re worried about losing your job but also upskilling while you are there, the idea of looking for new work is much less intimidating should it come to that.

Consider profit-share bonuses for employees

The employees who are at your company are the reason your business is making any money at all in general. This is only even truer during a hiring freeze. It’s only fair and right for them to share in the profits of their labor.

Especially if morale is on a downward spiral, profit-share bonuses help tie your workers to your business’ success. Even if the bonuses can’t be massive, it’s often the thought that counts.

While there’s no substitute for compensation, knowing that your bosses understand that your work drives the company’s success can mean a lot on its own.

Hiring freezes are a challenge for everyone. But if you’re concerned about (and dedicated to) keeping morale up, you’re already on the right path. All you have to do is put intention into action.

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Determine your employees’ needs and get creative

These aren’t the only ways to keep morale up during a hiring freeze, of course. But they are a good place to start. Don’t be afraid to get creative. Figure out what your unique company’s employees need and want and build from there.

Finally, don’t be afraid to iterate. Try something, see how it goes (measure success if you can), and pivot if you need to. There’s no right or wrong way to keep morale up, just strategies that work for your company and strategies that don’t.

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