Member Article

How to Keep Employees Motivated When the Future Is Uncertain

By Todd Riesterer, Chief People Officer, LogicMonitor

As each year comes to a close, many take time to reflect on what was new and what can be learned. This year, where does one even start? Sometimes it’s difficult to tell the difference between the events of this year and an episode of The Twilight Zone

The coronavirus pandemic and social justice uprising experienced in 2020 have incited ongoing conversations and questions about job security, racial injustice, health, and, ultimately, how to move forward.

Organisational leaders face additional pressure in these scenarios. Employees across the organisation may find it hard to be productive when many of them are feeling a sense of fear, frustration, and/or uncertainty. As they try to ‘steer the ship’ onward during a crisis, they are also responsible for maintaining the well-being of their workforce, maintaining focus and keeping employees engaged. If that sounds like a lot, it’s because it is. However, no matter how uncomfortable these circumstances are, this is the perfect opportunity to make improvements in the way organisational leaders engage with employees. In the words of the great Helen Keller, “Although the world is full of suffering, it is also full of the overcoming of it.” The following tips for leading and motivating employees through adversity serve to help company leaders manage their teams during times of stress.

1. Over-communicate

Once leaders are sick and tired of repeating a message for the 13th or 14th time, the individuals they’ve been given the privilege of leading are probably just beginning to understand and internalise it. Communication is a necessary part of any relationship; whether personal or professional. On the professional side, and especially if a company is facing unusual circumstances, there is no such thing as over-communication.

A one-off email from a CEO addressing the company’s handling of a crisis is not sufficient. Holding one employee Q&A meeting may resolve immediate concerns but does not provide the regular updates and reassurance that team members are longing for. The old adage ‘no news is good news’ has never been so untrue. In uncertain times, no news is definitely a sign of something really bad coming.

Companies must take an ‘all hands on deck’ approach to ensure that leaders are appropriately setting expectations and providing regular updates on the state of the business. Updates can take the form of weekly messages, regularly scheduled video conferences, or office hours where employees can ask questions. However, leaders must make sure that their messaging shows an understanding of staff concerns and directly answers their questions. It’s a good idea to link internal communications back to the company’s values to reinforce company culture during difficult periods.

When all messages have been relayed, leaders should relay the message again; and then a few more times after that.

2. Set new short-term goals and checkpoints for employees

In times of crisis, annual operating plans often need to be reassessed and short-term milestones created and clearly articulated. If the original targets and annual financial goals have been negatively affected by market conditions, it’s time to set new, shorter-term goals. For example, if bringing in $200 million in revenue was the company’s goal at the beginning of the year, but the pathway to that number now has unforeseen extreme obstacles, management should set new, shorter-term targets to keep employees motivated and moving forward towards a realistic goal. Good work should get recognised even during a pandemic, but the goalpost may need to move.

3. Emotional Intelligence (EQ), empathy, and whole person acknowledgement are more important than ever

When a company experiences drastic changes in its operations, such as shifting its entire employee base to remote work, it will take time for even the most driven, resilient and adaptable team members to adjust to the new normal. Demonstrating empathy and treating employees as more than just productivity assets will alleviate stress and help employees feel valued and motivated. It’s important to remember that many team members are parents, spouses, caregivers, part-time students or roommates who are having a harder time than ever juggling their at-home responsibilities, emotional health, and remote work obligations.

Now is not the time for a ‘tough love’ management approach. It is important to coach managers to model empathy while supporting and responding to their employees’ mental health and personal needs during these unprecedented times. Holding oneself and team members accountable to reasonable goals is always necessary, even in times of significant stress and change, but erring on the empathy and understanding side perhaps more than usual is a best practice during times of extreme uncertainty and many variables being out of everyone’s control.

Companies that implement these three strategies during times of crisis will reap the rewards of a happier, healthier, and more devoted workforce. And even with a future still uncertain, employees will have the stability and clarity they need to contribute great work and keep the company moving forward.

This was posted in Bdaily's Members' News section by D Baker .

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