Seven ways to keep your team motivated when times get tough

Author: Karen Young, Director, Hays UK

If your business is facing a tough time, then you and your team will no doubt be feeling the weight of it. Whether it’s fluctuations in your industry or within the wider economic and political sphere, the fact of the matter is, any uncertainty can take a toll on the morale of your employees.

When your business faces challenges, this can have a knock-on effect towards the very things that kept your staff upbeat, be it job security, financial rewards or a manageable workload. Moreover, it is these times when you need them to be at their best. So what can you do to mitigate these problems and keep your team motivated?

1. Don’t keep them in the dark

As soon as a change or challenge arises, make sure you are communicative and clear. Deliver as much information as you can in person and develop an internal communications strategy. This is particularly important if there are going to be any redundancies or budget cuts, or indeed new additions to your headcount. It is all change, and change rocks the boat. You should encourage your team to come to you with any questions or concerns that they have and be well equipped to answer them. Be as reassuring as you can be.

If you keep employees in the dark, you risk them picking up on office hearsay and jumping to the wrong conclusions. In my experience, it is during these times that staff begin to feel negative, morale starts to wane and productivity suffers. Being very open and providing facts will avoid this risk because staff will feel trusted and valued.

2. Be inclusive

It is not enough to just be transparent about the challenges facing your business, you should also endeavour to get people’s feedback and input. Hold team meetings or huddles and ask your team to bring ideas and solutions to the table – try to create an environment where everybody feels they can speak up and make a contribution.

The main benefit to you is that you will make staff feel more involved in working towards a solution. If employees are involved, they will feel like they are needed. If they feel like they are needed, they will feel more confident in their abilities and motivated to continue being of use.

3. Don’t forget to praise

Whilst financial incentives may not be possible, there are other ways to reward your team which won’t affect your budget. Praise costs nothing, but will more than likely mean a lot to your team during periods of uncertainty. Give credit where credit is due and thank them for their hard work. Throughout my years in the recruitment industry, I have seen one too many good employees complain about feeling underappreciated and demotivated, hence their desire to look for a new role. Don’t let this be your downfall.

4. Keep the balance

When there are challenges to our business, we all have to work a little (and sometimes a lot) harder. Wherever possible, make sure your employees aren’t staying too late, and if they have been working particularly long hours, can you afford to let them come in a little later or leave early the next day? Perhaps you could take them all for a team lunch, or buy some lunch in for them all to treat them, just to keep spirits up?

Whilst there may be lots to do, having overworked staff will only benefit you in the short term. There is only so much your staff can take before they lose all motivation, burnout and give up completely.

5. Make up-skilling a priority

Look at ways in which you can help your staff to progress. Ask them in which areas they would like further development. Budget may be an issue for formal training but there are other ways such as mentoring, free online training tools or by delegating certain tasks which would build upon their skills set. Encourage them to up-skill themselves, for instance via webinars or going to free events and seminars.

If an employee believes that you care about their progression needs, they will feel more motivated to make you proud.

6. Keep positive

Chances are the office environment will be tense during the more challenging periods within your business. Keep a smile on your face and continue to make whatever informal conversation you usually make with your employees, whether it’s asking how their evening was or what their weekend plans are.

Watch how you speak to others during this testing time, it’s not just what you say but also how you say it. Whilst you may be under plenty of stress, don’t take this out on your team. You are the leader.

Use your position to nip outward negativity in the bud and to exude positivity. This should have a trickle-down effect within your team, increasing their workplace happiness levels and overall motivation.

7. Business as usual

In a similar vein, whilst there may be challenges to your business which you will need to address, try and keep working life as consistent as possible.

Continue to delegate and oversee workloads accordingly, and keep routine things like team meetings, one to ones and weekly reports in the diary. Steadiness and routine will reassure any members of staff who feel negative about their futures and therefore tempted to develop a defeatist attitude.

In summary a challenging time for your business has the capacity to test the motivation of your employees when you need it the most. Following the above steps will help respond directly to their fears, insecurities and grievances making them feel appreciated, useful and ultimately motivated to continue doing a good job.

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