Three Ways to Motivate People During Tough Times

Les Gore
August 17, 2009 — 2,197 views  
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I used to find it extremely difficult getting motivated during the summer - my favorite time of year. There was always so much to see and do.

But not this year.

We've had more cloudy, cool and rainy weather than I can ever remember.

And spending money? I've become much more discretionary. Lots of "staycations," day trips, and not eating out so often, which I really like.

The current economic climate also makes it difficult to find ways to motivate employees. Traditional options such as raises or bonuses are mostly out; still, leaders and talent managers need to use cost-effective tactics to keep employees encouraged and engaged.

Read these three tips to help motivate your people during these tough (but won't last much longer) times.

This article is dedicated to the memory of Alan Rimm-Kaufman, founder of online marketing firm The Rimm-Kaufman Group, a colleague and friend, who died at the age of 41, July 18.

With raises or bonuses mostly out, you need to use cost-effective tactics to keep your people encouraged and engaged.

"With raises and bonuses just not in the cards, many businesses have shifted their thinking away from what had typically been the assumed form of currency for their workers and started having to rely much more on a softer yet more meaningful form of currency," said Terry Barber, chief inspirator at Inspiration Boulevard LLC, in a recent article in Talent Management magazine.

This "currency" includes inspiration, motivation and appreciation.

"There's a lot of productivity being lost [in the workplace]," Barber said. "Massive numbers of layoffs have taken place, so [there are] fewer people doing all the same work.

There has been such an organizational shift because an awful lot of those who have been laid off were not necessarily at the top [or] the bottom; they were in the middle. They were actually supervising and managing. So, it's kind of like troops in the field without a commander."

In order to alleviate the sense of uncertainty that employees are feeling and encourage them to reach new levels of productivity, Barber recommended talent managers take three cost-free steps.

1. Become Employee-Centric.

"Spend some time on a one-to-one basis uncovering the latent dreams, ambitions and gifts of [the] team members," Barber said. "All of a sudden, the questions become much more about the employee and not nearly so much about what an employee personally can do to help [a manager] toward [his] goal. On the other side of that is the opportunity to align the two, but begin there."

2. Make Work Meaningful.

"Help [employees] to establish what I would consider to be a very personal life vision statement," Barber said. The job that employees currently hold - as much as they love and appreciate it - is only a part of their lives, Barber explained. "[An employee's] job can be used as a training ground to help equip and train for something that's much bigger and much more long term."

3. Find Opportunities for Storytelling.

"Begin to tap into the stories that employees and customers in business have to share in almost every setting," Barber said. "In a staff meeting, it may no longer be about just the numbers and just an update. Understand that our minds, our hearts and our souls are hard-wired for stories - colorful, living illustrations about how what we do at work is impacting and making the world a better place."

Though these methods cost nothing to implement, the ROI could be significant.

"When your people feel like they are appreciated and there is a culture of inspiration, productivity can go up as much as 6.5 percent," he said. And it doesn't cost anything. It just gives focus to people. "When this takes place, customer engagement and customer retention rates go up as high as 2 percent."

Get motivated and motivate your workforce. It will have a positive effect on both your company's bottom line and your peoples' attitude toward you and their work.

About the Author

Les Gore is founder and managing partner of Executive Search International, a Boston-based, nationally recognized search firm and an over 25-year veteran of the "recruiting wars."

Les Gore