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How Do You Motivate Employees in Uncertain Economic Times

How Do You Motivate Employees in Uncertain Economic Times

How can we motivate amidst corporate and economic upheaval? Too many companies remove formal and informal recognition from the annual budget in uncertain times, yet the evidence supports the contrary.

A number of financial institutions and retail chains have announced staff cutbacks in recent months. but should a staff cutback also mean cutbacks or changes in a company’s recognition and reward program? Some say recognition programs can help see companies through staff cutbacks or other periods of business contraction.

Although there’s never a bad time to recognize, it’s crucial during the tough times. During periodic layoffs staff morale is at its lowest. A reward and recognition plan can counter much of the negativity that arises out of this economic flux. Instead of employees looking inward and fearing tomorrow, they remain goal-driven and engaged in their job functions.

Management needs to be more overt and sincere in it’s communication and appreciation methods. For instance, a plant manager can’t release 30% of her workforce and then proceed to hand out Swiss watches to those who remain. No one wants to think his reward came at the expense of another employee. People have a right to know the ‘how’s’ and the ‘why’s‘ of layoffs, and that it’s now time to move forward.

Tough times are the best time to get back to basics. What makes a recognition plan work best?

  • when it’s sincere
  • when it’s from the heart
  • when it’s personal.
Personal notes, a personal thank you, and one-on-one sessions with concerned employees are all revenue-neutral methods to reach out and touch your employyees.  Leave that door open - don’t increase the distractions by keeping a closed-door policy.  

Line-level managers and supervisors are invaluable keeping open those lines of communication as well. They can explain the business reasons for why you needed to cut back, and then explain how everyone can still impact their own success.  “We’re going to recognize and reward you as you improve and help us serve our clients better.”

Maybe dial down those programs based on company profit, and dial up those incremental behavior-specific rewards.  Think in terms of increasing efficiencies.  It’s not a good time for performance contests that reward only the few at the expense of the many.  

Educate and reward those line-level managers so they’ll understand how these reward methods will actually support the organization.  The way you treat your supervisors will make or break your communication efforts.

Lastly, don’t forget to listen.  Formal and Informal surveys will help bridge that gap between management and employees, and if utilized correctly, can often reveal some unique insights and recommendations from the bottom up.  

“It may be a hard day, but those who perform and help us drive our business goals will be rewarded.”

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