Leadership in unlikely places

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Make sure leaders are well trained in creating desirable workplaces. Ordinary greatness thrives in companies with strong leadership. In fact, a recent survey of federal workplaces found that the quality of an organization's senior leadership is the important element in building a great place to work—coming in even above pay and benefits.

"The Washington Post article that reported the study mentioned that employees value bosses who communicate well and provide workers with sufficient training and opportunities," notes Bilbrey. "So perhaps the most important thing you can do to make sure you get a positive return on your 'human investment' is making sure all leaders are thoroughly trained in these precepts and tools."

Ultimately, say the authors, committing to these strategies will go a long way in reducing the elevated absenteeism, lack of focus, conflict among coworkers, and general feeling of apathy that are often present in challenging times.

"Don't just pay lip service to the idea, but actually prove that your people are your 'most valuable asset' by recognizing, promoting, and cultivating the ordinary greatness that is right before your eyes," Jones urges. "You will be shocked by the difference it makes. If you're seeking rescue from the recession, the men and women who come to work every day are your last, best hope."

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