Employers need to be vigilant to keep their workforce connected and engaged.
Businesses facing the COVID-19 crisis are confronting both immediate and long-term challenges for their workforce, including persistent pressures that erode morale over time. Here are ways that businesses can help improve morale when it is needed most in times of uncertainty and crisis.
Create mentorship networks
Social connection is especially important when workers are scattered across locations. Encourage your team to connect both for personal and professional reasons--a positive step toward supporting mental health. At the same time, it can also provide long-term opportunities, learning pathways and help people think beyond the crisis of the moment. A mentor can help younger employees identify areas for growth and development, and provide a low-stress opportunity to have career conversations. Don’t overlook reverse mentorships, whereby junior, often younger, employees help more senior ones learn and adapt to new technology. At some point, times of uncertainty will shift back to stability, and at that point having existing mentor relationships to build off of will become even more valuable.
Encourage moments of levity
In times of great crisis, leaders might feel it's hard or even inappropriate to be anything other than serious, but allowing for and encouraging moments of positivity and levity is what everyone needs from time to time, as long as it’s authentic and grounded in facts. It’s one of the most obvious factors of job satisfaction, but one of the hardest to get right, and key to creating an employee-centric work environment. This could be in the shape of virtual after work mixers, a business development day, or simply opening up communications channels and encouraging staff to share their news on your intranet or group chat. When staff gets along, they are far more likely to boost each others’ morale.
Model and promote kindness
Kindness has always been an important leadership trait, but it’s even more business critical in uncertain times that require empathy and understanding. In a survey of 51,836 leaders, a tiny percentage – just one in every 2,000 – were rated at the bottom quartile in terms of likability but in the top quartile in terms of overall leadership effectiveness. Kind and likable leaders will be transformative when their teams need this trait the most.
Celebrate small victories
It’s easy to get wrapped up in routines and challenges. But even when businesses are at their most stressed – and especially then – it’s important to pause and notice the accomplishments of colleagues. As a bonus, when leaders pay attention to catching their team doing something right, they are less likely to negatively stew over their problems. The positivity will be reflected back on mood and productivity.
Improving morale in a difficult environment takes work, but it’s worth it. Slowing down, paying attention to the needs of the team, and taking deliberate actions can help build momentum into a beneficial upward cycle.