A cartoon of three people in business suits holding hands while climbing a hill, symbolising motivating teams.
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How to keep your team motivated through tough times

5 Apr 2023

Hays’ Karen Young shares her advice for employers on how to keep their workers productive, happy and loyal, even during difficult times.

When your organisation is going through tough times, your employees will feel the pressure. Whatever the cause, uncertainty can affect the motivation and productivity of your employees.

Likewise, challenges in your business may cause hesitation around the very things that keep your staff positive and happy in their role. These can be things such as job security, financial benefits and unmanageable workloads.

However, this is the time when you need your team at their best, and you’ll have to ensure you remove any doubt about where they stand.

So how do you keep your team motivated, productive and loyal?

Team motivation techniques

Although encouraging employees to be more proactive can bring many benefits to an organisation, not all employees are willing or able to take the initiative at work. Why? Many potential reasons, including a lack of time, uncertainty over standing out, or losing face if their efforts fail.

Because of the potential cost, an employee is more likely to show their proactivity when they are confident, learning and energised by their managers. Where possible, managers should spread the message of team motivation through their actions. Try to:

  • Empower employees to take success into their own hands
  • Challenge assumptions and spread positive messages
  • Foster trust between workers and management
  • Encourage workers to build job security
  • Reward initiative-taking – even if it might not have worked.

How can managers do the above? That’s where my top team motivation techniques come in.

Open up communication

Set an open environment for your workers as soon as any change or challenges arise. Encourage them to be as honest as possible about any concerns they might have and be equipped with a fully prepared answer. Reassure your employees, you will avoid the risk of them jumping to incorrect conclusions via office gossip.

This is particularly important if there are going to be any redundancies or budget cuts or if you are planning to hire additional staff. They should be able to come to you with any questions they might have regarding the current situation.

Inclusivity by design

Transparency about the challenges your business faces is not enough. You should try to make efforts to get constant input and feedback. Organising team meetings to discuss ideas and solutions is a great way to create an environment where people can openly speak up and contribute.

How can you stop people from leaving? In this case, actions speak louder than words. If your team do not know that you have their best interest in mind, they will look elsewhere. However, if they feel like they are needed, they will continue to grow and develop without any desire to leave.

Recognise initiative and performance

Little things sometimes make the biggest impact. While financial benefits may not always be possible, there are other ways to ensure your team know if you care about their career. Especially during times of uncertainty, it is vital to give credit where it’s due to keep morale high.

Throughout my years in the recruitment industry, I have seen one too many good employees complain about feeling underappreciated and demotivated. Employers then act surprised when their workers look for a new role. Don’t let this be your downfall.

Encourage a work-life balance 

An overworked team cannot stay that way for long without their motivation dipping. We all have to work a little (and sometimes a lot) harder when our business is under pressure – but it is necessary to give your employees the balance they need.

Working long hours can take a hard toll on your team. Offer to let them have the time back if possible or even treat them to a nice lunch. These small gestures should help keep their spirits up.

Open up progression opportunities

Your team should feel constantly empowered to progress within their role. Although budget could be an issue, there are several ways to develop staff such as mentoring, team training sessions or free online training tools.

Allow staff to attend seminars and webinars that will help them expand their knowledge within their field. With the encouragement to do better for themselves, they will naturally work harder towards team goals.

Spread positivity

Tension is most likely to rise during difficult times – and it is important to create a healthy environment for your staff to work in. Stay happy and talk informally whenever you get the opportunity.

Chances are, this will lighten the mood while your team are under pressure. Even if it’s something as small as asking about their weekend plans or how their evening was. Every little thing counts.

Your attitude in the office will reflect on your employees; it’s not just what you say, but how you say it. Although you may be under slightly more stress, you need to keep in mind that you are the leader – and not take this out on your team. Use your status to spread a happy vibe.

Exclude negativity. Being positive will impact your employees’ attitudes towards their work, as well as their overall motivation.

Champion a consistent routine

Regardless of the difficulties within your organisation, it is important to keep working life as consistent as possible. Continue ‘business as usual’ tasks as routine, such as team meetings, one-to-ones and weekly reports.

Keep these in the diary and stick to them. Steadiness will help your staff settle into work more easily, diminishing any negative energy.

Every company will face problems, but how you keep your team motivated in this crucial time is one of the things that matter most. Using the above tips, you will hopefully get rid of insecurity, helping your team feel appreciated, happy and loyal.

By Karen Young

Karen Young is a director and recruiting expert at Hays UK and Ireland. A version of this article previously appeared on the Hays blog.

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