No Image Available

Lucie Mitchell

Sift Media

Freelance journalist and former editor of HRZone

Read more about Lucie Mitchell

Seven deadly wins in employee motivation


Lucie Mitchell speaks to seven HR experts to find out their top tips on ensuring your employees are engaged, productive and motivated in the current economic climate.

Retention of your key talent is vital in a recession, which means that HR professionals need to ensure that those employees who have survived redundancy remain engaged, motivated and loyal. Here are some top tips to ensure your staff don’t get up and leave during the downturn and beyond:

1.       Focus on leadership development

"One of the most sustainable routes to well-being, motivation and employee engagement comes from developing leaders. Leaders define the reality for employees – they create the culture, and we all know how much our day-to-day experience of work is determined by the quality of the leadership we receive.
However, unless you understand the relationship between leadership style and employee wellbeing, with a view to figuring this into your leadership development programmes, real and sustainable improvement will be hard to achieve."
Ben Moss, director of workplace psychology firm, Roberston Cooper

2.       Explore solutions

"The first step is to recognise that you can't motivate people – but you can create an environment in which they feel inspired and confident that they can be their best. However, uncertainty and downturns typically lead to a more (knee-jerk) command and control reaction from senior management. This will normally be accompanied by a focus on problems and providing feedback on what people are doing wrong.
So focus on what is working well around the organisation, give regular positive feedback, put success stories as the first agenda item in all meetings (especially the board meeting), and shift from discussing problems to exploring solutions."
Gordon Barker, director of consulting, TalentDrain

3.       Separate morale from motivation

"Challenging times can be depressing, but they don't have to be de-motivating for employees – especially in the face of great leadership. Great leaders are quick to separate the concept of ‘morale’, which is how employees are feeling, from ‘motivation’, which is the ability to turn talent into productivity. Even employees who have low morale can remain highly productive.
To keep motivation high in spite of challenging circumstances, let your mantra be, ‘lead first, manage second’. Tempting as it may be, the worst response to a dip in employee productivity is for the leaders to forsake their core functions – capturing the hearts and minds of employees – in favour of focusing on management duties – dealing with the complexity and logistics of getting the work done."
Cy Wakeman, HR consultant and keynote speaker

4.       Dust off your employee survey results

"Remember those employee surveys you did last year but never got round to looking at due to other more pressing issues? We all know that the market went into freefall from November to March, but has now levelled out, so now is the time to look at the results of those employee surveys. The information held within these surveys is absolute gold dust for HR managers and will help develop an internal communications strategy which will eliminate the ‘grapevine effect’ and provide a solid foundation for sustainable chain in preparation for the upturn in business."
Nigel Watson, performance culture specialist, Q4 Solutions

5.       Build your employer brand

"Creating a reputation as an employer of choice for both existing and potential staff, and involving staff in process improvement, makes them feel more valued, more highly motivated and more ‘engaged’ with their organisation. Moreover, staff are more likely to implement any subsequent process improvement because it will have come, initially, from them and their peers – rather than being imposed seemingly arbitrarily by management."
Alistair Morrison, CEO, Echelon Learning

6.       Create an honest culture

"Create 100% honesty about the business challenges ahead and include people in the implications. It will create ownership, loyalty, energy and a sense of oneness. Create work groups – new teams which can get involved with different aspects of the turnaround mission; and establish very high levels of involvement. Lastly, have the courage and humanity to create time for fun. It's not flippant, its motivational and energising. Bring in the musicians to the office."
Stephen Archer, director, Spring Partnerships

7.       Hold a 'CEO for a day' session

"When times are tough and motivation is really needed, invite employees into a three-hour session on site called 'CEO for a day'. Working in pairs and small teams, get them to:
  • Describe the CEO, e.g. personality, strengths, fears
  • Discuss what and who really adds value in the firm
  • Discuss what one decision they would make to improve morale and add value, if they were CEO for a day.
Then act on the most compelling and well-argued initiative!"
Jonathan Perks, MD, Penna

One Response

  1. Morale, Productivity and Retention in a Recession
    Three more tips to boost morale and productivity, retain top talent and even gain competitive advantage — even in a recession:

    Do you want to retain or even increase your competitive advantage? Then you must not take your employees for granted. Here are three ways to show your employees you appreciate them and their efforts.

    1. Demonstrably value your employees – Show them you know what their strengths are. Put them in roles or give them assignments that let them flex their muscles. Give them opportunities in your strategically important functions. Then don’t forget to tell them why you are doing this – because you recognise their talents and need their contributions to succeed.

    2. Communicate and recognise – Be accessible, address concerns openly, and recognise effort frequently and appropriately. There is much fodder for the rumor mill in most organisations today. Pre-empt the rumors by giving regular status updates. Say thank you. Let people know their efforts are valid, worthy, noticed and above all, appreciated. More on this common theme next week.

    3. Prevent poaching of top talent – Companies that manage to get the above points right stand a better chance of retaining their top talent. Or put another way, keep their competitors from poaching their top performers. The entire state of California is facing a retention challenge of mega proportions as surrounding states aggressively campaign to poach individual talent and even entire companies. Keep your competitors away from what makes you better than the rest – your people.

    Three more tips available here:

No Image Available
Lucie Mitchell

Freelance journalist and former editor of HRZone

Read more from Lucie Mitchell

Get the latest from HRZone

Subscribe to expert insights on how to create a better workplace for both your business and its people.


Thank you.

Thank you! Your subscription has been confirmed. You'll hear from us soon.