If you were at the Holiday Inn in Waterbury yesterday, you had the opportunity to see a microcosm of what’s going on in today’s workplaces and economy.

Lining the halls outside the conference rooms to the hotel were hundreds (850, to be exact) of people apply for 40-50 jobs at an indoor water park.  (The Hartford Courant treats the story as if it were the only employer in the state doing hiring.) Fox61 News had a report last night detailing the scene as well, which you can see here:

But if you look carefully at the video (particularly about the 1:20-1:40 mark of the report, you can see a banner in the background from a seminar and conference that was also occurring at the hotel yesterday. It reads: CBIA Supervisors’ Conference.

What was the conference? Well, the all-day conference was designed to give supervisors’ practical skills to help them become more effective managers.  (And, in full disclosure, the conference was sponsored by my firm, Pullman & Comley, LLC). But an underlying theme of the day was how to manage in difficult economic times.

The lunch-time speaker spoke eloquently about how managers and supervisors — even at healthy companies — must understand the stresses that are being placed on all workers, even the ones with relatively secure jobs.   Employees are worried about layoffs or their families’ financial well-being, in levels not seen in a generation.  (Just think about all of the job fair applicants who have families and friends that are concerned about them.) As a result, fear, anxiety, lack of loyalty and uncertainty are all feelings that are circulating in the workplace.

What are some practical solutions suggested by the speaker? Most of the suggestions are good business practices anyways, but they are certainly worth repeating now: Build trust; communicate often; pay attention to high potential employees; recognize success; and including employees in decision-making (i.e. cost saving ideas). And inexpensive rewards — even a letter of thanks by the company’s President — may make a difference in today’s workplaces.

I had the opportunity to speak in the afternoon on the ADA, the new ADA amendments and how to deal with employees with disabilities.  I’ll share my thoughts on the ADA in a future post (though you can get a head start on the subject from my previous blog entries). 

With the jobless rate now climbing to 7.6 percent nationally, it’s a tough time for both the people looking for a job, and those fortunate enough to have one.