2020 will go down in history as a challenging year for business. Not only was it hard to build and sell products, it was equally difficult to keep a positive attitude. This doesn’t just apply to management, obviously. Every employee felt the pressure, both at work and at home.
Things may be looking up in 2021, but if last year taught us anything, it’s that maintaining good morale in your business is something you can plan for, but you really can’t catch up on (at least not quickly). Here are three ideas that can help you and your team to keep your chins up, even when challenges arise.
Number one: make it someone’s job to maintain positive team relationships. Before 2020, none of us had ever heard of social distancing. While this practice helped us to stem the tide of COVID-19 cases, it also had the side effect of emphasizing how isolated many employees are from their teammates. It is so easy to focus strictly on productivity that maintaining human connections among workers can become an afterthought. It’s strange to me how the events of last year didn’t just make it more challenging to stay connected with coworkers, it made it clear that we were already doing a weak job in that department.
Ensuring that your team actually feels like a team is a big job, therein lies the key: make company connectedness part of somebody’s job responsibilities. It may still be a while before everyone is comfortable returning to events like company picnics, and that means we’re going to have to be creative as we get people “together.” Find somebody in your organization (or hire them) who loves interacting with people and make an investment in them, either full time or as part of their job description. Support them with resources and technology and be willing to let them think outside of the typical “jeans day” box. Ask them to establish goals and then track progress.
When it’s somebody’s job get people together (either in-person or virtually), it doesn’t fall through the cracks – and it’s too important of a job to fall through the cracks. When your employee relationships are deeper than just a paycheck, the resulting loyalty and responsibility can be huge assets during tough times.
Number two: put systems in place that recognize achievement. Employees value financial rewards, of course, but they also appreciate a good old fashioned “great work” from their boss. This is another part of management that can easily be put off or forgotten as we get busy, so it’s helpful to create systems that help us to remember.
An example might be a company award or some kind of surprise recognition. You may also want to consider rewarding employees for recognizing the efforts of their teammates. Something special can happen when you offer a nice gift card to anybody who finds a teammate doing something great and reports it: you build a culture in which everyone is looking for the best in one another. Best of all, they don’t just encourage each other, they do most of the work! A system like that is the very definition of a “win-win” situation.
Number three: open up the lines of communication. The idea of communication within a company flowing in one direction – from management down – isn’t just old fashioned, it’s now an impediment in hiring and keeping good workers.
Modern employees don’t want to simply take orders. They want a say in how things operate. They want their ideas to be heard, and who can blame them? Who better to identify ways to improve production than those who take part in it every day?
It all begins with listening, and again, developing a system can help. Do you have a channel of communication in place that workers can use to suggest improvements? Does management regularly share information about the company’s decisions and direction? If an employee has an idea or a suggestion, do they know how to pass it on – and do they feel confident that it won’t be lost in the shuffle?
Don’t confuse a congenial work environment or an open office door with real communication. Many workers are simply too intimidated to bring the boss an idea. Put specific tools in place for your team to use to communicate and be sure that management shares information about company success stories, challenges and plans on a regular basis. Once you establish legitimate two-way communication, workers will feel more invested in the company’s success. They’ll begin to act more like partners and less like employees.
If you’ve got your own examples of how you’ve succeeded in maintaining positive morale at your business, I’d love to share them with the members of the H2WMA. Please drop me a line.
About The Author
Greg “Hal” Halliday is Anchor’s managing partner and also serves as an account manager, putting 25 years of sales and marketing experience to work for Anchor’s clients. Originally from a small town in southeast Minnesota, Hal is a graduate of the University of Minnesota, Duluth with a degree in business and an emphasis in marketing. He also serves as the president of the Highway 2 West Manufacturer’s Association.