Seven Ways To Motivate Staff In Demotivating Times

By Mark Swartz
Monster Contributing Writer

You can't promise job security. Raises or bonuses may be frozen for now. Employee morale is at risk.
Yet are times actually bad? It's not like Canada is in recession. However economic uncertainty can paralyze a workforce anyway. So before productivity falls (and survival mode takes over), you may want to bolster your staff's motivation.
Here are seven ways to re-inspire the people you rely on for productivity.
1. Communicate Your Plan to Give Rewards Later
If need be, you can delay raises, promotions and bonuses short-term. Not forever though. And not without communicating your intentions early on. Let your employees know that the freeze is temporary. Indicate the kinds of raises – hopefully above the cost of living – that they could earn once things improve. Then continue to track performance and conduct periodic reviews.
2. Don't Let Any Good News Go Unpublished
Looking to pump up morale? Keep news about wins and successes coming. Your staff is looking for encouraging info to counteract their anxiety. So broadcast such achievements as sales increases. Boast about signing new customers or upselling to old ones. If your team has been praised by others for their work, share this too. These bits of sunshine can have a positive cumulative effect.
3. Emphasize Employee Recognition
When times are uncertain, people want to hear that their contributions matter. It helps relieve their concerns about being expendable. If you already have an employee recognition program, use it more. If not, try informally acknowledging each individual's efforts: a private pat on the back; announcements to the team; letting senior management know. It all goes a long way to making the employee feel valued. (Here are inexpensive perks that can motivate employees.)

4. Encourage Participation
Invite your employees to take part in decision making. Allow them to have some input in to who gets which assignments, how existing processes can be improved, and in what ways they're rewarded. Not that you shirk your duty to have the final say. But giving your staff some buy-in means they feel more invested in the outcomes.
5. Make Employee Development A Priority
Managers with fewer resources must be creative about staff development. You should have regular conversations with your people about their aspirations and abilities. This way when opportunities arise, you know who can take on the additional responsibility. Show how the added work means more skills to learn and cultivate.
6. Minimize Ambiguity
Uncertainty can lead to confusion and conflict. Employees are left to fill in the blanks at the very point they are feeling most worried and negative. Attempt to remove as much ambiguity as possible. Over-communicate what you do know. Be honest about what you don’t. Repeat the information often. Provide some perspective by clearly stating the organization's current goals and each employee's role in achieving these objectives. 
7. Create Trust
Do your employees trust you as a consistent, dependable leader? You can build this trust by repeatedly honouring your commitments. If you're guilty of overpromising and under-delivering, try mending your ways. Be more realistic in the benchmarks you set. And let people know in advance if you won't be able to deliver, so that alternate arrangements can be made.
Be The Motivation That You Seek To Create
A wise leader named Mahatma Ghandi once said "Be the change you want to see in the world." In this case you could "be the motivation" that you want to inspire in others.
You needn't put on a fake smile or be falsely optimistic. Instead, follow the seven steps outlined above. Be sincere in your actions. Show consistency and reinforce the positive.
Your employees are searching for clues that will dispel their uncertainty. When you act with conviction, and show that you're concerned about their welfare, you reduce their anxiety. This is a solid foundation for preventing the loss of morale.