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Most businesses experience tough times at certain moments in time and they often lead to a drop in motivation and changes of priorities.

Never has this been more prevalent than throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. Managing motivation in these unprecedented circumstances is just one situation when companies had to adapt quickly and really consider how to best motivate staff in problematic times.

To help the management teams with handling situations of crisis, international telecommunications provider TollFree Forwarding partnered with business leaders, motivational gurus and HR experts to a series of problematic scenarios, that every company will likely face at some point and have all provided their top tips in overcoming some of these common situations.

  1. A Global Pandemic Disruption

The COVID-19 pandemic has been, for many businesses, one of the biggest disruptors of all time. 

Employees’ circumstances and reactions to such an upheaval in normal working have varied widely. As a result, some have experienced anxiety, depression and other mental health issues as a direct result.

The most important takeaway from this drastic change is to talk to and listen to individual employees and find out what works best for them on an ongoing basis. 

It’s important to treat people with the same attention and appreciate that their needs may change. Many might find returning to an office difficult, while others may find it difficult to motivate themselves in a home working environment. Maintaining a regular dialogue and adapting policies for each employee is key to getting the most out of them. Sweeping rules that apply to everyone and are set in stone will not motivate individual employees and allow them to perform at their best.

  1. Challenging Financial Period

Times of financial uncertainty or hardship is something many businesses experience, and particularly in unpredictable times like the pandemic, this has become a cruel reality for many industries.

Uncertainty can quickly grow among your team, but it’s how you react that will define if it’s a special circumstance or a long-term trend. Ben Gould, President of QuickBridge, outlined the need for transparency.

“It’s important that you don’t try to cover up or hide the fact that your company is going through a financial rough patch. Make important company information and reporting available so they’re able to see the contrast in volume numbers between each month.

The need to provide clarity to staff members was echoed by Sacha Brant, Founder and CEO of Sassy Lasses.

“Choose transparency. Be very upfront with every one of them and pull together a large staff meeting to discuss actionables to make it work. Using all-in team tactics, you’re able to get the team invested in the success and not just the paycheck.

  1. Underperformance from an employee

An individual struggling to meet their goals is something that can affect the morale of the entire team.

Marlene Caroselli, author of Jesus, Jonas, and & Janus: The Leadership Triumvirate, suggests the following technique for managing the situation:

“The Five-Why technique is probably best for learning why the targets are not being met. It will reveal, for example, if this is a temporary or permanent condition, if more training is required, if apathy is at the base or if there are personnel problems.

Marlene notes the Five-Why technique in identifying the root cause of the employee’s poor performance. Essentially, you drill down into a problem by asking “why” five times, helping you to be more informed when solving the issue.

Doug Keller, an HR expert from Employee Benefit Services, focuses more on kick-starting job satisfaction to refocus struggling staff.

“Task identity is the process of completing a project from start to end. Sometimes people only see themselves as a cog in a wheel and are disconnected from the implications of their role. Allowing them to work at different points throughout the life of an assignment helps them to not only own their contribution but the project as a whole.

“Task significance is best described as understanding the effect your work has on others, either within or outside the organization. This can be lost as employees complete simple, mundane tasks.”

Positive reinforcement, support and regular check-ins are the best ways to keep things on track.

  1. Resources Are Suddenly Stretched

Sometimes, a sudden increase in workload can catch teams off guard. Employees move on, illness leaves your team depleted in the short term or new business comes your way.

Using Keller’s technique of “Job Crafting”, the management can provide new opportunities for the employees to flourish. Job Crafting is a method of customizing work that allows employees to take on tasks that they feel play to their strengths or interests while creating value for the company.

This is a great way to look at staff changes as potential opportunities for them to grow and develop their skill set.

Rod Brown, Chief Operating Officer of OnceLogix, also commented:

“When times are tough it’s tempting for business owners and managers to put engagement initiatives to one side and focus on organizational pressures. However, this is precisely the time to actively engage with your employees.

“Be sure to over-communicate, keeping lines of communication open both ways. Be visible, implementing an open-door policy. And ask for employee feedback and include employees in your action plan.”

  1. Personal Circumstances Affecting Individual Mental Health

People go through testing circumstances at home that can lead to distractions in the office.

“The first thing to do is address the situation and determine if the employee should even be working during this time.” says

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