Times are tough right now. Salary’s are stagnant, or are even being cut. 401K’s are not being matched. People are losing their jobs. Unless something is done, this combination of economic malaise is a great way to insure that morale stays low. Even after the cuts and downsizing, many managers may not even be concerned if their remaining employees are unhappy or not. They are under the same kind of pressures themselves. They are not sure if their job is safe now. But what’s a leader to do?
Do Your Job
The answer to the question of what a leader is supposed to do under hard economic realities is this: simply do your job by getting stuff done with the efforts of other people. Focus on doing what it takes to organize efforts, communicate the vision, and get the outcomes that you’ve planned for. Do this now in this economic environment and do it when it changes. You lead people and people need you now.
The very best thing you can do is to be an effective leader during tough times. This will pay many dividend when the economy picks up and other companies begin to compete for your best people. If you are waiting to “take care of your people” when money starts to flow again, you are kidding yourself. Your quality people will leave you if you are not taking care of them now.
Don’t be short-sighted; employees who are not happy are looking elsewhere and when the climate turns many will abandon ship. Now is the time to keep your employees exhilarated! Just a little effort will keep them loyal to you.
“So what can you do to motivate a team and create loyal employees when morale is low?”
In this economy, it’s imperative employers concentrate on non-monetary motivating factors by:
- Taking a genuine interest in people
- Keeping an open line of communication
- Helping people to understand the importance of their role
- Bestowing recognition on your team
- Cultivating career development plans
1. Take a genuine interest in people.
When times get tough people band together; they take a bona fide interest in one another.
- Find out what is going on in the life of your team members
- What is important to them now
- Let them know you understand
- Do what you can to help them
- Offer advice if they are looking for it
Try making a mental list of everyone you may meet today. Think of what they are working on or what they have going on in their life and try to relate to them. People appreciate it when you take an interest in their lives. It will increase morale. Let people know you care and help them realize they are not just another number in the corporate books.
Think of others first, show interest in their lives, offer a helping hand.
What are some ideas you have to strengthen the bonds with a team?
2. Keeping an open line of communication.
An open door policy sends a message to your coworkers you are approachable, willing to listen and discuss issues as they come up. An open line of communication also acquaints you with your team to know what is important to them. If you are familiar with their goals and desires, you will be able to lead them more effectively grooming them for the next steps they wish to do. Without and open line of communication you are leading them blindly and will not get the synergies needed to achieve your goals.
- Ask employees for their ideas
- Be a good listener
- Take notes
- Work to find ways to incorporate their ideas into the corporate vision
You may be surprised at the good points of information they will give to you. And when you do use their ideas and the employees see them in action you will be surprised by their loyalty to you and the company.
Don’t forget, communication is a two way street. People feel important when they know what is going on with their company. They feel a sense of power when they are “in-the-know” on breaking news. Reach out to your staff when there is news to be shared, organize your thoughts and convey a clear, concise, informational message without breaching company confidentiality.
Keep an open line of communication, be a good listener and make them feel important.
What are some thoughts you have to enhance the communication within a team?
3. Helping people to understand the importance of their role.
People like to feel needed, so helping people understand their contribution to the corporation and showing them that their efforts DO make a difference will certainly increase their morale. It is important for people to understand how each gear turns to keep the machine operating effectively. They need to understand the part they play in the overall corporate structure and the flow of the business.
Take a particular function in your business as an example:
- Where was it generated and what is the intended outcome?
- What path had the process taken before it reached your team?
- Where did it go afterward?
- What was the result and how did it contribute to the goals of the company?
It is important to illustrate this so that people understand their role is not idle and without function.
Another way to generate a feeling of contribution to the company is to delegate authority. Delegate authority by:
- Encouraging people to take on more responsibilities
- Aligning them with the company goals
- Letting them take ownership of certain processes.
This increase in leadership responsibilities will build the bench strength of your team and increase fellowship among employees. Furthermore take the time to publicly recognize them and convey how their initiatives helped the company and/or the customer. Better yet, invite the customer to take the time to give a public testimonial of the employees efforts. This kind of respect in a timely manner will go a long way with your team.
Help your team to understand their overall role in the company and build bench strength through delegation.
What are you doing to build the bench strength of your workforce?
How do you communicate workflows and processes within your group?
4. Bestowing recognition on your team.
Expendable funds are minimal, but how do you recognize your team for a job well done? One of the best ways is to allow your employees a greater stake in the company. By offering your team options in the organization it generates a deeper interest in helping the company to succeed. The closer the ties, the more loyal they will be and the more desire they will have to look out for the best interest of the company.
A lesser option is to give them a gift they would not otherwise spend their own money to buy. In better times companies had gift catalogs allowing the staff to pick from a selection of nice items. In today’s climate, a more reasonable token may be company logo merchandise. It allows the employee to boast his affiliation with a nice corporate logo while at a minimal cost to the company.
Let’s face it, people enjoy recognition, but the timing and context have to be right. Be sure to:
- Convey praise immediately with much encouragement
- Tie the recognition to the team goals and make it part of your repertoire
- Have recognition provided by an officer of the company, this is often times worth more than a material token
- Award people based on measurable goals
Awards and recognition generate loyalty and elevate morale.
What forms of recognition do you use?
How do you recognize an employee for a job well done?
5. Cultivating career development plans.
One of the worst feelings as an employee is not knowing where you are going with your employer. Take time with the people on your team and sit down with them to develop a clear career path showing them the next steps they can take based on their achievements. A great time to cover this is during biannual performance reviews. Take this time to give constructive feedback AND discuss with them what they can do to grow with the company. Find out what you can do to help each of your team members advance and work to make it happen. Not only will it help them, but as management sees future leaders continually being produced from your staff it lets them know the value you offer to the company.
Develop your team using:
- Books and short articles on related topics
- Online Courses
- Out of office training workshops or seminars
When people are excused from their regular duties for a short period to take part in these type of events, it helps make them feel important among the crowd.
Take time with your team to make sure you understand what their goals are with the company and help them to develop and achievethose goals.
What have you done to develop your team?
What are some methods you use to boast the triumphs of your team?
Keep your team on board! Think of others first by conveying an interest in their lives, talking with them often, and letting them know that they are doing a good job. Remember to frequently communicate that you appreciate their contributions. Then help them to develop in their careers. With any luck, you will help create a motivated team, a stronger group bond, greater retention rates, and increased team morale.
Jason Christensen is National Accounts Manager for The Stanley Works.
He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
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