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3 ways to keep your workforce motivated in times of change and uncertainty

Posted by: sarah-hardy

Change Management

All businesses have to be flexible to survive the constant flux going on in and around them. We all know that change and uncertainty are inevitable on some level, but what is the best way to handle them?

Some people enjoy a constantly evolving work environment. However, not all employees – or leaders – share the same level of enthusiasm.

For some employees uncertainty is their worst nightmare: Routine goes out of the window, jobs can look insecure, familiar faces might be replaced. They might have to work remotely and, as a result of countless similar factors, some employees are left feeling lost at sea without a captain.

So, as a business owner, leader or manager, what do you need to do to successfully steer your crew through turbulent times?

1) Start with communication

Almost every article on employee motivation will highlight the importance of communication. It’s the basis for effective management, and for good reason! Communication is crucial during any transitional period, as it helps people to feel like they have a better handle on the situation. The Change Management Factsheet issued by the CIPD suggests to: “Facilitate translation of the overall vision through mass communication, use of relevant techniques, and changes to interactions and entrenched systems”.

If the future of the company is only discussed in whispers or behind closed doors, even your most relaxed employee is going to start wondering what you’re hiding. Particularly in times of turmoil! If this situation persists for too long, your workforce will begin to feel alienated from management, rumours will spread and the inevitable happens: People start to leave.

It is therefore imperative that you are as open as possible. Of course, it is not necessary for every person in the company to be aware of the minutiae of the organisation, but frequent dialogue about the bigger picture and what that means for your employees is very important in order to make people feel involved and keep them motivated.

2) Develop an understanding of your employees

Change management will be conducted more smoothly when you understand your people. Your best option is to gain scientifically-based insights into the behavioural characteristics of your employees, and use this information to decide how best to communicate change to them.

This provides you with an objective indication of how each employee is likely to react to any organisational change. You can then use this knowledge in your communication with them.

This information will also tell you who you can rely on in order to help you implement change. You may find that you have leaders who are change resistant, and find that you actually have some employees who could rise to the task of guiding your teams through the transitional period.

Knowing how people are going to react makes it a lot easier to motivate them throughout any transition, which prevents a drop in staff morale.

3) Build trust

You need to introduce and manage change in a way that means you retain the trust and commitment of your teams. By communicating and getting to understand your employees, trust should already be building between you. If your workforce feels that you are taking the time to really understand them and keep them in the loop, they will react to you and your leadership more positively. This will create an upward spiral in terms of positive working relationships.

An important point here is that you also need to show emotion. Most employees detect inauthentic behaviours very quickly. Not bringing your whole self to work or being afraid to show vulnerability leads to an erosion of trust.

Particularly with the rise of artificial intelligence, employees do not want machines for leaders. If you are worried, it’s ok for your employees to know this to a certain extent. Likewise, if you’re excited about the new direction of the company, you should express this. 

In doing this, you will earn your employees’ trust, meaning that they will have confidence in you and believe that you are leading them in the right direction. In turn, this will keep them engaged and motivated.

Of course, there are many other factors to consider, but using these three steps as the starting point of a strategy for managing times of change will have a hugely positive impact. Leading with an awareness of the needs of your workforce will keep your teams on board with change implementation, and ensure that they remain motivated and open through tough times.