It’s the busy season for your team, and the workload will remain high for the next few months. But already you think staff members are losing steam. In fact, there’s more grumbling about the extra work this year than in the past. What can you do to keep everyone motivated and focused?
Above all, you need to recognize your employees’ low morale before the situation spirals out of control. Burnout, low productivity and, worse, losing a top employee are all dangers of overworking your team. Keeping employees motivated can be challenging, but there are several strategies you can use to get them back on track.
Determine what’s different this time
If employees have rallied in the past during busy times, identify what’s different about the projects on their desks right now. Staff lethargy may not be the result of the work itself but of organizational changes, elevated workloads during the downturn or lack of direction from the top. Whatever it is, diagnose the problem and openly acknowledge it to help the team move forward. Even if you can’t fix the overall corporate culture, you can help create a positive team environment for your department.
Communication is key
Meet with your team collectively and individually to help prioritize workloads. Determine if a portion of a project can be delegated to other employees or even outsourced. Does the group have the right tools to get the job done? Make sure all workers have the administrative support, proper equipment and materials they need.
Be approachable so that employees will give honest updates on the project. You don’t want them to encounter a problem and fall behind because they are afraid to ask for your input. Remember to provide consistent and ongoing feedback.
Revisit who’s doing what
Make sure work assignments play to each team member’s strengths and divvy up the work fairly. Failing to assign tasks to the right people can frustrate other workers and potentially grind the project to a halt. And while you need to encourage an employee’s growth, timing is everything: If the workload is especially heavy, it may not be the right time to “test” an employee’s skills in a new area.
Be generous with praise
Keep in mind that while the team is an entity of its own, it is made up of individual members who may not always get singled out for the kudos they deserve. Make a sincere effort to publicly praise the team, and key standouts, in company newsletters, through emails and at meetings.
Be specific when directly complimenting an employee. Clarify the action or skill that pleased you. For example, did it make your own job easier to receive a report a day early? Was it evident that a project summary required a substantial amount of background research on the part of an individual employee?
Remember, however, that while praise should be openly displayed, criticism should be given in private only.
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