12 ways to engage your team during times of recession

Recessions can be tough for businesses and employees alike. Find out some of the ways you can increase engagement so your business can thrive even when the going gets tough.

1. Introduction

It’s no secret that during tough economic times, businesses need to be extra careful with their spending. Employee engagement activities are often one of the first areas to suffer when budgets are tight. However, what many employers fail to realize is that employee engagement is more important than ever during a recession. Engaged employees are more productive, creative and committed to their work – all qualities that can help a business succeed, especially in challenging times.

2. The importance of employee engagement in times of recession

Imagine a game of your favourite team sport, let’s take soccer. The entire season has gone rather well and your team is on the way to a solid victory. In one of the last defining matches, your team finds itself playing on a field they are not used to playing on, against a team that’s using a completely different strategy than expected, the weather has decided to take a turn for the worst and not only that but one of your team’s star players is out with an injury. This sounds like a worst-case scenario, but in reality, these situations happen in sports. For businesses, a recession compares quite well to the above sports event. Multiple factors disrupt the market and your organisation.

During a recession, the economy takes a deep dive. Products become more expensive and sometimes harder to source. There are often layoffs and companies (not yours of course) go bankrupt. Even when your company stays in business and manages to retain all staff, the environment might just get a lot more challenging than before.

What you need in situations such as this one is a team that can adapt quickly and get resourceful. They need to be able to depend on each other’s qualities, communicate clearly and move with purpose.

3. How business owners can prepare their teams for a recession

Let’s first acknowledge that recessions and depressions have a real impact on your organisation and the people that work with you. You may need to make some difficult decisions such as letting go of people. The people that make up your team may also face additional stress which can lead to extra challenges in executing their work.

The main point here is, that your business is made up of people who together create the results for your customers. Preparing your people for the challenges of a recession means you’ll have to be human first. In a world where business is mostly about action, this can feel a little counterintuitive.

Here are some of the things you can do to bring your team closer together.

1. Developing personal relationships at work

I’m hearing you thinking, isn’t that the thing no one is waiting for? Be like a family they say! But, this isn’t about making people feel like a family. This is about making sure you have strong connections within and across your organisation. Just like great sports teams can build on each other, so should your employees feel they can move mountains together. Employees who feel close to their co-workers are more likely to be engaged in their work.

2. Make them feel appreciated

When employees know they are valued and important, it inspires them to give their best effort. Whether praise is given publicly or privately, acknowledgement shows that the business values its workers and encourages continued productivity.

3. Provide frequent feedback

Give feedback regularly, preferably when or close to the time you observe the behaviour. When you observe changes, make sure to Use positive reinforcement when appropriate. This will help staff feel acknowledged and respected, which will encourage them to give their best performance.

4. Give them a sense of control in their jobs

Job satisfaction correlates directly with employee engagement levels. If employees feel they have some degree of control over their careers and working conditions, they are more likely to be happy and productive on the job. But do remember that too much control can lead to a feeling of overwhelm. People usually excel when they do what they do best most of the time and when they are stretched in about 5% of their work.

5. Help them bring purpose into their work

When you know why you do what you do, and what the bigger picture is that you are part of, or what makes you come alive in your job, you are intrinsically motivated. People who are intrinsically motivated enjoy doing their work rather than just trying to do their job well enough so they don’t get noticed or fired. When employees feel a sense of purpose in what they do, it engages them more fully in the tasks at hand.

6. Show them how they contribute to the business’ success

It’s easy to forget that each part of the machine contributes to the greater outcome of the business. Providing some transparency and visibility of individual actions that result in a greater outcome for the company will show your employees they are significant.

7. Communicate openly & honestly with your employees.

When budgets are tight, it’s important for employers to be transparent about how the money is being used. This way, employees know where they stand and can make realistic expectations about their opportunities for advancement. It’s also important, to be honest with employees about the challenges facing the company and encourage them to brainstorm ways that they can contribute. If an employee feels like their ideas aren’t being taken seriously, disengagement will likely follow.

8. Foster a culture of creativity & innovation.

In times of recessionary conditions, businesses need creative thinkers who can come up with new solutions to old problems. Encourage your employees to explore new ways of thinking, and reward them for their efforts – both in terms of career growth potential and extrinsic rewards such as praise or financial incentives. Creating a culture of creativity not only encourages employee engagement; it also sets the tone for future success in tough economic times.

9. Reward employee performance consistently & fairly.

One of the surest ways to motivate staffers during difficult times is by rewarding performance consistently and fairly across the board – no matter how challenging the situation may be on individual levels. This approach helps build trust between management and subordinates, which in turn leads to increased productivity and overall satisfaction within the workforce (and beyond).

10. Stay true to your word

This might be one of the most challenging ones in this list. We often say things we don’t do and we do things that go against what we say. Let’s start by saying that you can create a bunch of goodwill when you walk your talk. And when you don’t, or when you are perceived to be inconsistent, let’s try not to hide it. Trust is hard to build and easy to break. When you have people working with you that trust you, you have a team you can build on.

11. Stimulate employee loyalty by offering meaningful benefits

Benefits do not always come in a higher paycheck. Of course, it’s important to start off with fair pay for all, but also consider including comprehensive health & dental plans, and retirement savings plans. Offering valuable benefits speaks volumes about your organization’s priorities – showing that you care not just about salary alone, but also about taking care of your employees’ long-term well-being (including their health and retirement security). It can go a long way towards generating positive employee attitudes and motivation in tough economic times!

12. Make work fun!

Who says work has to be all serious? Have you ever realized how sometimes you just achieve more when you’re having fun at the same time? Promote team spirit by organizing team events & social activities. Organizing fun team events (such as group lunches or celebrations) not only helps boost morale among staff members; it can also foster development opportunities for newer recruits/apprentices/interns etcetera. By effectively promoting team spirit within your workplace, you’ll contribute significantly towards keeping your workers engaged during tough economic conditions!


4. Conclusion

By now you probably realize that your business success depends on the people that make up your business. Making sure they are engaged, united and inspired to move together is the best way to prepare yourself for challenging times such as a recession. There are many different ways to engage your employees, and many of them cost very little time or effort. They may, however, result in increased productivity and profitability and most of all a happier more engaged workforce.

Are you keen to grow your business by building engagement within your team? Find out how we approach employee engagement and sign up for a complimentary strategy session.

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Maarten van Rijn

Maarten van Rijn

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