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How To Keep Employees Motivated During Challenging Times

Muhammad Asif is an entrepreneur, investor, and CEO of MCA International, a firm providing growth-focused solutions to hospitality industry.

Talent recruitment and retention, waning office culture and remote work are some of the biggest challenges facing CEOs post-pandemic. But the most urgent threat to a business’ success — and potentially the most damaging — is the deterioration of employee motivation.

Consider yourself in the minority (and lucky!) if your employees remain as motivated now as they were prior to the pandemic. Many companies are seeing a drop in employee engagement and motivation, and CEOs and HR teams are working tirelessly to fix it. Keeping your team motivated was an important and difficult task before Covid-19. How do you motivate the team and get them back in the game after 16 challenging months? The truth is: If you don’t galvanize them now, your company will inevitably struggle, as your people are the most important stakeholders in your organization.

As a consulting business, we need our team to be on the money all the time or the service dwindles. Keeping our team happy and motivated is something we take very seriously. Here are a few ways we’re keeping our own employees engaged.

Work in the office together.

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This may seem obvious, but after the pandemic it’s even more true and relevant. Face-to-face employee collaboration is fundamentally important, particularly for small businesses. Relationship building is critical and that only happens when you do face-to-face work.

The pandemic forced businesses to go remote but as restrictions lift, I’m a big advocate for returning to the office. We kept hearing from our staff that they wanted to come back, so we started to open the office up and now we have most of our team working in-person most days.

Many big companies are leaning into hybrid work and letting team members alternate days they’re in the office. But the team remains fragmented. You may as well not have any of them come in. We’re seeing that even those employees who were initially reluctant are now having fun and are happy they’re back in the office.

I’ve heard some executives cite overhead as the reason for closing an office and going remote. But in many cases, this just leads to the lines between home and work blurring. This happened during the pandemic and I just don’t think the long term effects are good for mental health. Socioeconomic factors also come into play. Not everyone lives in a big house. Some are in small apartments and asking them to work in their living space for long periods of time can have a detrimental effect.

Don’t underestimate the power of regular team-building events.

In previous years, our staff would routinely go on team-building excursions. During the pandemic those regular outings obviously didn’t happen. But as things started to open up, we invited team members to come into the office for a potluck. We asked everyone to bring a dish from their heritage and requested that no one talk about work. It was a get-together focused on getting to know one another on a personal, human level. Our employees, after months and months apart, reconnected over these potlucks and remembered how fun going to work is.

While team-building events can sometimes have a bad connotation as being boring or lame, it’s an incredibly important investment for your company. Skip the forced happy hours and instead try something unique like zip-lining or a ropes course. We took our team clay pigeon shooting and it was an exciting and fun day that employees talked about for months.

It shouldn’t be just a one-time thing. To keep the motivation and positive vibe going back in the office, plan regular outings. Not every single one needs to be a one-of-a-kind event, but consistency is important.

Keep the mission and vision front and center.

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In the beginning of the pandemic, when it became clear that we’d be working remotely for the foreseeable future, we started a new tradition at our weekly all hands meeting: We started reading our company’s vision out loud. A new person would read it each week and it kept everyone aligned and focused during a time when it was easy to get distracted.

We’ve continued this practice even after returning to the office. We still rotate who reads it each week and it’s a tradition I’m ecstatic we started. It’s incredibly important to keep your team’s eye on the ball. Whether it’s reading the vision out loud in team meetings or regularly discussing it in one-on-one check ups, make sure the team understands the “why” of their work. This small step will result in higher retention and happier employees.

Keeping employees motivated is hard work but critical to your business’ success. Make the time and financial investment and you’ll see the payoff in employee engagement and happiness tenfold because ultimately “hiring and developing people” is one of the most important things we do in business.

Forbes Business Council is the foremost growth and networking organization for business owners and leaders. Do I qualify?


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