It's tough and getting tougher


A prolonged economic downturn and a winter of discontent have pushed employees into a state of exhaustion. Change is both necessary and unwelcome. There is the recurrent fear of job insecurity as companies are forced to reorganise.There is also the inevitable pressure of adapting to new business processes, learning new skills and building new relationships. The threat of unemployment is hanging over many people's heads.


Staff motivation is being eroded


We meet many managers who tell us how hard it is to motivate staff; there's no sweetener of bonus, pay rise or promotion: sometimes there's no news because strategy or structure still isn't decided.  And there's low morale, client dissatisfaction, poor productivity, internal conflicts, few career prospects and little immediate hope. Managers feel they are the ones caught between the rock and the very hard place.


How can managers maintain people's motivation?



Check on your own feelings. How much do you communicate your private thoughts, hopes and fears to your team? And is this helping or hindering the situation? Being open with your team is different from being openly negative.



Although we are all motivated differently, there are some common themes to motivation: recognition and acknowledgement, personal satisfaction doing something of value, a sense of belonging with good relationships. If you cannot offer security, financial incentive or good news, at least you can meet some other important needs.



Relax the rules. Would working from home one day a week, or changing working hours, or changing a dress code, or bringing in donuts on Friday, or playing music make people feel a little more valued?



Get creative and inspire your teams to get creative too. With limited budget, you can still solve problems through innovative thinking. Try some alternative thinking techniques. Invite in a facilitator to help your team unravel their issues. Set aside a time or space for crazy ideas.



Give away your interesting work. Delegate activities to team members who are able and willing to stretched and challenged. Ask people what aspects of the job they might like? Ask people how they want to be supported. Coach people through the specific tasks, and avoid over-nurturing them (unless they want this). And don't expect everyone to be the same.



If there's no money for training, organise internal training so that your experts share their knowledge and those with experience can gain greater exposure. Do some training yourself. Personal development is a great way to divert people from their current pain, re-skill them for the future and be useful to a business.



Give positive feedback to people because people need nourishment. We often forget to praise unconditionally. (And make sure there's no "...but...") Take time to thank people for what they have achieved, stating specifically what behaviour has been most useful and show the positive impact of their actions. Then ask them what they think. You might be surprised by the results.




Get teams talking because it's better to have open rather than whispered discussions. Provide regular forums for talking about "stuff" and facilitate them in a structured way. Allow time for people to air grievances, but steer conversations on to discuss options, actions and commitments.



Spend time building relationships with individuals in your team. Find out what they need and want, find out more about them as people, find out what their long-term plans are. Be genuine and curious. Ask questions rather than talk at them.



Be honest with people and plan contingencies together. Play a series of "what if" scenarios that help everyone prepare the best and worst cases. Help people (and yourself) to be ready for the unexpected.


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