In a time of crisis, as is currently the case with COVID-19, keeping staff mobilized can be a challenge. This is especially true if your team members are working remotely, far away from each other.
It is necessary, however, for the employees’ well-being and to ensure smooth operations that everyone’s motivation remains undiminished.
Here are a few recommendations for maintaining a good state of mind at work, even in such a context. Don’t lose sight of the fact that the organization’s main strength is undoubtedly its human capital, its employees.
Adapt to change
Organizations need to react quickly in a time of crisis. They must constantly adjust their strategy as events unfold. Depending on their needs, they have various options, such as teleworking, using technology, optimizing processes, reducing the payroll (temporary layoffs) or hiring temporary employees to compensate for the many absences due to the epidemic.
Of course, all these organizational changes, combined with the disruption of family and social life and the psychological impact of a major crisis, can affect the motivation of your most valuable asset: your employees. It is in these difficult times that the manager’s role takes on its full meaning.
This is when managers must learn how to navigate by sight, gauging the direction of the wind. Depending on the project and circumstances, each worker will need a different approach, requiring the manager to be considerably flexible and use what is known as “situational leadership”.
Some employees will need clear guidelines, specific boundaries and a well-defined framework to compensate for the distance and possible transformation of roles. Others will need to have a sense of their manager’s trust and interest, but will be comfortable with more autonomy.
The context requires a great deal of attentiveness and listening to gauge the staff’s mood and recognize their needs from day to day. Maintaining the team’s morale is paramount, and it becomes even more difficult when all or many of them are at a distance.
Communicate, communicate, communicate
In any event, the worst thing you can do is to stop communicating while waiting for the bad times to pass, keeping employees “out of the loop” and hoping that they’ll be able to weather this storm on their own. Right now, more than ever, your employees need to stay in touch and be kept informed of developments.
Continue to share important information with them on a daily basis through virtual team meetings, summaries, telephone exchanges. Talk to them about goals, issues and current or upcoming changes.
It is essential to adequately inform and reassure employees, to clearly explain the measures that will be taken, the changes that will be made, as well as the consequences and expected results, so that everyone has a clear understanding of their role and what’s expected of them.
Take the time to recognize their efforts and go over the results with them, congratulate them on accomplishments and work together to fine-tune the process, if necessary.
Allow employees to express themselves and find out about everyone’s well-being. Despite the crisis, maintain not only a functional but also a relational connection with your employees.
Maintain harmony and guide the group
Let’s start from the principle that the leader is, in a way, a conductor directing and setting the musicians’ pace. Now think of an orchestra without a conductor (yes, we know that robots can do that now… but can they really bring out the emotion of the symphony?) You can easily imagine how the symphony deteriorates into a cacophony of false notes and lack of rhythm.
Now, transpose the image to an organization, where managers must mobilize their team towards a common goal to ensure harmony. When the situation and economic context are favourable, orchestrating employees is rather easy, everyone knows their role and how they fit into the whole in a fairly predictable environment.
But what happens in times of crisis or a sudden downturn, when, in a very short timeframe, everyone’s expectations and roles have been changed for the sake of profitability, with little time to adjust? Managers must evolve towards a more active role, requiring them to be more involved in operational activities and apply proximity management.
Involve employees in the decision-making process
Lastly, a strategy that ensures greater employee involvement in the search for solutions is particularly important. Employees who are consulted and engaged are employees who feel useful, who have a sense of belonging to a team, a mission, of contributing to something greater than themselves. The end result is the strengthening of employees’ bond with the organization. They will feel involved and motivated to do their utmost to achieve the goal.
The leadership role must evolve towards teamwork that involves employees in order to maintain their motivation and attachment to both their work and the organization. In a context of workforce shortages, our employees’ experience is also critical to their loyalty. No one wants to experience a situation like the coronavirus crisis, but let’s use it to bring the human dimension back into the heart of our businesses.
Do you feel prepared to manage your business in a crisis? Will you be able to adapt your leadership to deal with the fast-paced changes tomorrow will bring? Do you have all the tools and skills you need to exercise effective leadership in this unexpected environment?