How to Keep Employees Motivated During Daunting Economic Times

Managing a business has never been more challenging than now. Just as companies started to adjust following the pandemic, inflation became a top concern, one that has forced many organizations to scale back on everything, including raises. As a result, executives face the challenge of balancing tight budgets with energizing burned-out workforces. So, what can managers do to keep employees engaged without breaking the bank?

Wages continue to be a primary driver of employee engagement. In fact, it is the top reason why individuals leave a job. However, sometimes, like now, there just isn’t enough money in the budget to give a well-deserving employee the raise they deserve.

Compounding the problem, finding help has become a big problem for many organizations. The US unemployment rate has remained low since Covid, and many businesses, especially those in markets where employees need to be on-site and interact with customers, have trouble finding help. How can a business bridge the gaps?

Recognition Comes in Many Forms

Humans crave acknowledgment. More money is a financial reward, but executives have other ways to recognize employees’ accomplishments. A handwritten card expressing appreciation puts a bounce in one’s step. Making a small donation to a nonprofit of their choice perks them up. A local food tour, art class, or wine tasting captures their interest. A personalized book selection is another thoughtful gift.

Personalized Tokens of Esteem

Every person in an organization is different. Consequently, cookie-cutter symbols, like an Employee of the Month award or a note to the team – no matter how well put and heartfelt it is written – often have little impact on workers. Managers can use a template to send notes but need to include at least a few personalized comments. Sending a letter to their home address illustrates the manager’s investment in the gesture.

Perhaps not surprisingly, employees became significantly more productive after receiving a special, non-monetary gift. They reported feeling especially valued when they saw that their employer took the time and effort to choose, purchase, and wrap the gift, so they increased their own efforts in return.

Public or Private?

Some individuals like to stand in front of the crowd and hear the applause. Others feel intimated by such processes or sometimes even embarrassed in public. Again, managers need to understand employee preferences and adjust accordingly. Private meetings can occur any time but try to choose a time that fits the recipient’s schedule Public kudos can come in small team meetings or corporate gatherings. Such recognition often impacts not only the recipient but also motivates others. They focus on earning the award and put more time and effort into their work.

Involve the Employee

With individuals being so different, understanding what each one desires as a sign of appreciation can be an intimidating challenge. The best way to learn what motivates employees is to ask them. Managers and human resource professionals can send out survey or schedule one-on-one meetings and pose questions like:

  • How would you like your excellence recognized?
  • What makes a great workday for you?
  • What would make your job more satisfying?
  • What do you need to learn to perform at your best?


Allow Employees Time to Reset

Nowadays, everyone is busy with work and personal responsibilities. Managers can encourage employees to strike a healthy work/home balance by providing staff with extra days, an afternoon, or a few hours off. Sometimes, employees even need encouragement and support to take breaks and vacations. The away time breaks up any monotony and creates the opportunity for the person to see their job in a new light.

Provide Opportunities for Growth and Personal Development

Skills enrichment and potential advancement enhance engagement. So now may be a good time to meet with employees and outline their potential advancement paths at the firm. Such meetings help managers understand how staff view themselves within the company and build a foundation where they take on more responsibility if it is desired. This idea also raises their view from the current, which lacks just compensation for a future they will benefit from.

To help employees reach such goals, corporations must offer specific training to improve workers’ job performance. Enterprises need to identify training opportunities and enable workers to attend classes without having their typical responsibilities. Managers should also provide mentoring and people skill development to help employees become more well-rounded. Employees who feel that they are learning and growing become more motivated and engaged.

Why Take the Time to Motivate Workers?

Hiring a new employee costs between $4,000 and $20,000, and the numbers do not include the time lost by individuals involved in the process or the work that does not get done during the transition. So, keeping a good current employee costs less and is more effective than hiring and training a newbie. Therefore, now more than ever, business leaders must be more creative and find ways to let employees know how much the business appreciates them.

Another plus is helping to motivate employees positively impacts their well-being. They feel good about themselves, their job, and the company. The process breeds a sense of belonging and we rather than us versus them. The company gains as well as employees invest in the firm, revenue and productivity rise while absenteeism and turnover fall.

The current business climate is grim. Many organizations are struggling to get into the black. With money very tight, managers must be clever and find ways to motivate employees. Focusing on non-monetary compensation, taking a personalized approach to work with each employee, and providing a clear career path increase employee engagement, benefiting both the enterprise and the employee.

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True Synergy, Inc