It's not easy being a business owner or a manager. Even at the best of times, it's much like a juggling act: You have to keep many balls in the air. But during an economic downturn, a media crisis, or natural disaster how do you keep your employees motivated and loyal?
We've all seen the headlines lately--companies such as Snapchat and United Airlines are really taking a media beatdown. If you're in a similar boat, how do you keep employees motivated during tough times?
A few months back, my office was affected during Hurricane Maria. We were without power for two weeks. Instead of shutting down and twiddling my thumbs, I did my best to resolve the situation.
A few days days after the storm passed, I was able to locate a co-working space that rented out desks to freelancers a few miles away that had power. I called them up, and asked to rent out desks for some of our team members until our office regained power.
This allowed us to keep our customers happy, and my employees were ecstatic to have air conditioning and wifi for most of the day. We weren't going down without a fight, and you shouldn't either.
A crisis is the best time for you to be honest, hunker down, and engage positively with your team. Remember that you are all in this together, no matter your level or job title. Nobody wants to be unhappy or insecure in a workplace, and a happy workplace really does make all the difference.
Here are five ways to keep your employees motivated when times get tough:
1. Focus on employee engagement.
Keep your door open--literally and figuratively--so employees who want to talk about whatever's going on can feel comfortable coming to you. Be seen around the office in a time of crisis.
Walk around the office, eat lunch where you usually sit and be visible. When they approach you, answer their questions as honestly as possible and as fully as you are able. It will help employees feel less scared and more involved.
2. Keep employees involved.
People just want to help, especially in tough times. You may have to call in experts, but when possible, ask your staff to help. They'll be more than happy, and will generally have great ideas about what would be best for the team.
3. Be unified.
Remember that it's not you against them. Make sure your employees know that you are on their side.
The unified approach that starts at the top. Even if employees don't like the information or actions given to them, they will be watching how the owners and managers behave. Make sure they know that you have their (and the company's) best interests at heart, and that you aren't going to jump ship.
4. Recognize employees' contributions and hard work during times of crisis.
It may not be a good time for the company, but you will still want to pay attention to who is doing good work. Nurture your relationships!
Make sure your staff know that they are appreciated, and that the hard work they are doing is making a difference. Do something, whether it's a kind word, a free lunch, a bottle of wine, or an award, to recognize the work of your staff members.
5. Create problem solving groups.
Whether formal or informal, problem-solving groups helps energize and motivate staff. Again, people want to help and make a difference. It makes them feel good, and gives them the semblance of a bit of control over their destinies during an otherwise difficult time.
Remember that it won't always go smoothly, and you may hit a few bumps along the way. I like to think of these as great opportunities to learn and grow both personally and professionally. As long as you have the companies best interests in mind, and involve your team in the decision making, you can get through anything life throws your way.