The unprecedented events of the past two years have affected us all personally and professionally. Around 70% of US businesses say they have had to weather a significant negative impact, which does more than just putting the board and shareholders on edge. It can also create a sense of nervous tension throughout the entire organization. Maintaining morale is vital for every business, but it can be more easily said than done in challenging times.
Most managers came up through the ranks, so we should all know from experience that mushroom management is unpleasant and disheartening when you are on the receiving end. Give the workforce the credit they deserve and share as much information as possible. Even if the situation is terrible, it’s often not as dire as the scenarios employees might envisage and the rumors that can spread. Even more important, though, transparency helps everyone feel they are part of the team. It fosters a greater willingness to contribute to the solution, for example, by voluntarily putting in some late hours or taking on extra tasks.
It might not be possible to hand out bonuses or offer a generous raise during difficult times, but there are other ways to reward the workforce, even when money is tight. These might include weekly “shoutouts” to recognize team successes and individual achievements or perhaps providing new development opportunities by asking someone to be a mentor or head up a project. Some businesses reward staff with extra time off, for example, going home early on a Friday, but exercise caution here, as it can be misconstrued if the company is going through a difficult patch – that brings us on to the next point.
Hybrid working was always coming, and its arrival has simply been hastened by events of the past two years. It’s here to stay, and it provides flexibility that can benefit both the business and its workforce. The 9-5 is practically a thing of the past, and it means those who wish to work more – or indeed fewer – hours should be able to do so. This makes for a happier workforce that can more easily balance both work and life demands. It also creates a more agile business that can meet client demands while minimizing instances of paying people to sit around doing nothing – it is undoubtedly a win/win.
It might sound like an extreme example but think of the classic war movies. The most significant acts of heroism, bravery, and triumph over adversity came when the troops pulled together, watching each other’s backs. Teamworking is a powerful thing, and it becomes more important than ever when times are hard – after all, these are the worst moments to feel alone and isolated. Leveraging the power of team spirit is key to maintaining morale and propelling the business to greater performance.
Even in the 2020s, when we talk about motivating the workforce, we tend to think about those at the sharp end to visualize Charlie Chaplin and the other factory workers in Modern Times. But after all the talk of team spirit and employee shoutouts, it’s worth noting that sometimes, the manager’s office is the loneliest place of all. A 2020 survey by Appraised showed that line managers found the challenges that were ongoing at the time tougher than anyone. Perhaps those little acts of support and recognition need to be a two-way street.