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How to motivate staff in turbulent times

As a business leader, you simply never know when your organisation is going to face hardships. Whether it’s due to reasons within or entirely outside of your control, inspiring leadership is needed more than ever when times are tough.

“During the COVID-19 pandemic, companies and leaders had to face challenges in keeping their teams motivated - for some employees, working from home affected their productivity levels, while others such as working parents, found it more stressful to finish their tasks,” Sher Lynn Lee, Head of the Northern Region at Robert Walters Malaysia, notes.

Sher Lynn adds, “Lack of social interactions while employees work from home has also affected the mental health of some, given the limitations of virtual meetings.”

“More broadly, looking at talent pipelines, during challenging times such as the COVID-19 pandemic, companies who are still hiring, be it for replacements, expansions, or new company setups, had to take on a more aggressive hiring approach due to stiff competition and candidate shortages in the market. And this will put more pressure on hiring managers and HR teams,” Sher Lynn points out.

Staff can often become overwhelmed by all the pressure and uncertainty that comes during turbulent times, making it especially important that leaders are able to ensure their employees stay inspired and motivated. Here are some useful tips on how to guide your staff through stormy waters.

Turn panic into passion

It’s easy to understand why many people panic when thrust into difficult situations. As a leader, it can be tough to get through to people when there is so much uncertainty in the air. Despite this, you can use critical moments to your advantage. The seriousness and weight of the situation can be turned into an inspiring call to action, rather than a cause for panic and uncertainty. Many people can be on edge in testing times – use this to yours and their advantage rather than letting it hinder progress.

Turn rhetoric into action

Most people will have heard a lot of the usual rhetoric that leaders engage in, so it might not have quite the impact you hope it will. Even though what you are saying might be true and capable of offering inspiration, often just using words without purposeful action can fail to have the desired effect. Great leaders do more than just talk – so put into practice initiatives and calls to action that will help turn your words into tangible results in the workplace.

For an effective impact on employees and workplace culture, do not forget to engage and consult with your HR leaders and business partners. Sher Lynn says, “HR teams can help facilitate creative employee engagement activities to build team morale and foster a more positive mindset. HR can also help leaders identify the best existing talent, and suggest shifting them into critical value-driving roles to further propel the business to success.”

Be firm but fair

There’s no doubt that when times get tough, the demands placed on every member of staff increase significantly. Given that pressure is already likely to be quite high, the additional effort and focus required to navigate through difficulties can be tough for many people. However, the critical nature of getting through tough times means you can’t be too lax, or you won’t make it through. Therefore, it’s crucial to strike the right balance between firmness and fairness. Show your staff a side of you that understands the difficult position they are in but let them know that they are strong and dedicated enough to get through it if they work hard.

“If you have to enforce tough decisions such as cutting bonuses or having staff take unpaid leaves, it is important for leaders to connect with individual team members. Having regular catchups with the employee will enable you to highlight any significant achievements, or any issues that need to be addressed immediately,” Sher Lynn explains.

More importantly, Sher Lynn advises leaders to set clear goals and priorities through close mentoring to keep staff motivated. “Leaders should further involve employees in the company’s decision-making processes to make staff feel valued and have an avenue to voice out their opinions,” Sher Lynn says.

Unite your team

When things go wrong, people often look for something or someone to blame it on. This is the kind of hostile working atmosphere that can be incredibly detrimental to your organisation as your employees are not working together as a team towards one common goal. Gathering everyone together to remind them that staying united as a team is the strongest way to approach any challenge in the future is far better than dwelling on the mistakes of the past.

As countries remain in lockdowns and companies adopt hybrid working arrangements, team leaders could foster and maintain team spirit and organisational culture by doing virtual lunches or coffee break sessions as replacement to physical watercooler chats at the office.

Sher Lynn suggests, “Create healthy team competitions to keep everyone engaged and connected with their teammates. Foster a sense of camaraderie among them. Lastly, recognise employee contributions during team meetings – this will make your team members feel valued and clear on their purpose to the success of the business.”

If you require further expert advice on your hiring needs, visit our hiring advice hub or contact us for a confidential discussion.

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