How to Motivate Employees in Today's Economy

By Katherine Spencer Lee

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In today’s economy, keeping people motivated can be particularly challenging as workers feel less secure about their jobs and financial stability. That’s why now is the time for leaders to move their efforts to reassure and inspire staff into high gear.


This doesn’t necessarily mean bringing in motivational speakers, but it does require being sensitive to forces affecting the workplace. Even if your company is thriving, employees may have concerns about the potential for layoffs or budget cuts. Here are some strategies that can help keep your staff motivated during uncertain times:


Be candid - Open communication is critical. You don’t have to share the finer details of business plans or financial matters, but you should let employees know of larger developments that will affect their jobs. Plus, when the information comes directly from you, you reduce the risk of rumors traveling through the office grapevine. For instance, if your firm is limiting the number of new IT initiatives but has no plans to reduce personnel, let staff know. It’s hard for people to feel motivated if they’re worried about losing their jobs, so take the lead and share what you can.


Pay competitively - Money is becoming a big concern for nearly everyone as the cost of living continues to rise. While you may not be able to offer marked increases in pay or bonuses, do provide financial rewards to your employees when possible. Reassess salary levels regularly to make sure they’re competitive. Remember, too, that talented IT professionals are always in demand, so underpaid staff may pursue jobs elsewhere.


Respond to signs of burnout - Excessive overtime, increased absenteeism, missed deadlines and more frequent errors are just some indicators that employees are at risk for burnout. Remind people to take their lunch breaks, especially during busy times when they may be tempted to skip them altogether. Encourage staff to inform their managers if they are feeling overwhelmed and stress that there will be no negative career repercussions in doing so. In addition, bring in project professionals to help during peak workloads and alleviate the burden on your team.


Praise and reward - Employees who feel their managers understand and appreciate their contributions are motivated to excel. Verbally thanking someone for staying late to fix a server problem or acknowledging a group’s success during a staff meeting can lift spirits. Also consider more formal rewards, such as gift cards or a day off, to recognize exceptional contributions. Finally, provide employees with opportunities to advance. Promoting from within demonstrates that you notice and appreciate hard work.


Invest in training programs - The opportunity to learn new technologies and keep skills sharp is a big motivator for IT professionals. By offering training to employees, you show them you’re investing in their career advancement; at the same time, you may realize benefits from their increased knowledge and productivity. Inexpensive and flexible options like online training can make it easy to offer professional development without a significant investment in resources.


Remember that you set the example when it comes to motivation. If you’re not inspired when you arrive at work each day, you can’t expect those who report to you to be. Avoid discussing any frustrations with company policies or plans in front of employees and try to share the positives with any business challenge. Your upbeat attitude, combined with some proactive motivational strategies, can help to keep productivity high.


Katherine Spencer Lee is executive director of Robert Half Technology, a leading provider of IT professionals for initiatives ranging from e-business development and multiplatform systems integration to network security and technical support. The company has more than 100 locations worldwide and offers online job search services at www.rht.com.