Motivating employees in difficult times

Motivating employees in difficult times

Motivating employees is always important, but inspiring your team takes on increased significance during challenging economic times. When business results are less than promising, emotions, such as fear and anxiety, can bring employee performance to a standstill. Here are some suggestions from the Wisconsin Institute of CPAs to help foster productivity, high morale and loyalty in your workforce in the best and worst of times.

Give them vision
To keep up morale, make sure employees know and understand the organization’s mission, vision, values and goals. Those concepts represent the organization’s reason for being and, as such, help workers focus their efforts in the right direction and see that their contributions matter. Be sure they know who benefits from the work of your organization.

Don’t hide the target
Setting clear expectations is a great way to motivate employees and keep them on track. Clearly establish goals with each employee, indicate the results you expect and how those results contribute to the overall performance of your business. To confirm their understanding, ask employees if they have any questions or need any resources to complete the tasks you assign. Finally, make sure if the organization’s goals change, you let your employees know how these changes impact their roles.

Provide regular feedback
Conducting an annual employee performance review is important, but it’s not enough. Employees need to know, on an ongoing basis, when they have done a job well and when you expect better or different results. Keep in mind that the more immediate the feedback, the more effective it is. Try to catch people in the act of doing what you want and acknowledge their performance immediately.

Make employees part of the solution
Employees need to be involved. Empowering employees to make decisions about their work and to solve day-to-day problems demonstrates your confidence in them and motivates them to live up to your expectations. Another bonus: when you make employees part of the solution, it is easier to get their buy-in and commitment for the long-term.

Focus on people development
Since most people thrive when skill building and learning are part of their daily experiences, investing in your staff’s development should remain a priority. Training, career development and other learning opportunities don’t have to cost a lot, particularly when you utilize internal resources. The best way to ensure the growth of your team is to create an individual development plan for each employee and work with them to carry out the plan.

You cannot over-communicate, particularly in uncertain or difficult times. Sharing information and building your staff’s understanding of what’s happening in the business and in the industry is key to engaging them and to aligning their efforts and performance with the organization’s objectives. What’s more, sharing information with employees sets a good example and encourages them to do the same with one another.
Since not everyone processes information the same way, it’s helpful to use multiple forms of communication, particularly when the information is critical. For example, you might follow up an e-mail message with a voice mail reminder. And don’t assume that, just because a communication has gone out, that it has been understood and accepted. Instead, ask questions to confirm comprehension.

The power of praise
Recognizing and rewarding workers is one of the most powerful ways to impact morale. Acknowledge good effort, not just results. Keep in mind, too, that people are motivated by different things, whether it be money, travel, training, promotions or a flexible work schedule. The best way to find out what motivates your staff is to ask them.

Build fun
There are important milestones in the life of every business. Be sure to mark them. Throw a party and celebrate your workers’ accomplishments. Don’t ever allow yourself to get so caught up in the daily routine that you fail to see the good work being done.

Be positive
Every day, millions of people arrive at their workplace ready to contribute their best. The attitude of business leaders can greatly impact employees. Be positive and supportive and your employees are more likely to act similarly.

The above column was provided by the Wisconsin Institute of CPAs, based in Brookfield;

May 30, 2003 Small Business Times, Milwaukee

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