When times are tough, really tough like they are right now, it's easy to respond like so many companies seem to be doing - laying off people. Having an expectation that because you are paying your people they should be committed to your company and that when good times return they will be loyal to you is a false assumption. The truth is that in tough times you need to make an extra effort to keep employees motivated. Think of it this way, you would never consider operating without a comprehensive business plan or sales strategy so why would you not think about ways to motivate your employees? The hard truth is that your job is to keep your employees moving forward. Below are ways to help keep you and your team on track:
- Take a look at your business. The longer a company is in business, the easier it is to get complaisant, even get off track; particularly if the company has been doing well. Now is a great time to pull the management troops together and revisit why you're in business. This may seem silly but many times management and employees are not on the same page. Ask simple questions such as what is it you really do? Why do you do it? Why is it important to the companies you serve? Why does your company even exist? Do your employees really get what you do? What would be at risk for your customers if you ceased to exist?
- Be a good coach. Take a lesson from the football coaches. Words of encouragement and praise remind employees that they can be the best only by deciding to be the best. The coach makes everyone want to improve and win by focusing on the players' possibilities not about their failures or mistakes. It is easy to find fault and criticize. A good coach doesn't do that and doesn't talk down or yell at people.
- Be highly visible. When things aren't going well it is the time when you should be there for your people. Spend more time with employees, customers and suppliers. Use down times to continue developing relationships and learning from those around you. Help employees move forward and take on new projects and new skills. Nothing comes to those who wait. Try to spend 10 or 15 percent of your time developing your people so you can grow your company with highly motivated people.
- Get more motivation with more talking. Town-hall meetings have become a favorite tool amongst many leaders. Find a format that works for your company. For example, try to meet every month with certain groups of employees. Meet over coffee, breakfast or lunch. Use these informal conversations to keep employee informed, motivated and working harder.
- Keep focused. Don't forget to keep yourself motivated. This really means staying positive as well as focused. Concentrate on the future, maximize past successes and erase all negative thoughts. It is inevitable that you'll encounter periods of low energy and even the occasional failure. Getting beyond that will build your confidence and confidence is what will get you motivated to work with your people to build future success.
By taking time to go back to these seemingly simple questions, you will have the basis for being sure that the employees really know your vision and are fully motivated to move forward. It may seem obvious that before you can begin to reward and motivate your employees, you should figure out what values and goals you are trying to promote, but many times, businesses blithely skip this crucial step. A recent study found that only 44 percent of the employees surveyed said that they felt their employer had effectively communicated their company's goals to them. It is hard to keep people motivated when they don't know what they are supposed to be doing.
Have you ever wished your people were as accountable, responsible and hard working as you? Do you often hope your people will change and get better? To build a successful business, you can't do it alone. You need staff, suppliers, subcontractors, managers, foreman and workers to get the job done. The simplest way to get what you want is to be a good coach. People want to do more, so remember their output is the result of your input. All it takes is a little praise or compliments from you.
It takes a combination of soft skills and people skills to keep your people motivated. And it takes a combination of focus and confidence in yourself to be able use those skills effectively. Take the time now to motivate your people in a positive way so they will stay when times improve. When employees hit their goals they become self-motivated. Yes, all of this takes an effort on your part but it pays off in the end.
Linda Hanson, CMC, is a certified management consultant and author of 10 Steps to Marketing Success. She writes, speaks and consults on marketing, management and customer service issues and can be contacted at www.llhenterprises.com. Sign up for her free newsletter The Superior Performance Report.