How to Motivate Your Team in a Rotten Economy

2878520711_fbc43352c1_m.jpgEarlier this week I wrote about how to make a slacker pull his weight on the job, and Derek Irvine of the Globoforce Blog pointed out to me that sometimes slacking is actually a consequence of an economic crisis.

He's right. Nothing sucks away motivation like worries about money, job security, or the stress of having to take on the work left behind by downsized colleagues.

But while it's understandable, flagging team spirit can push your company into a continuing downward spiral -- as motivation and morale wane, productivity declines; as productivity declines, so does profitability; as profitability decreases, belts tighten further and motivation takes another hit. And so on.

That's why it's important to work hard to keep your team motivated, even as the economic shrapnel is falling all around. Derek suggests using positive reinforcement and strategic recognition techniques:

"Strategic recognition targets (motivational) challenges with mechanisms to acknowledge and reward performance, personal achievement, and team successes. The recognition program should also be used to reiterate core company messages such as key goals and the mission to keep staff focused on achievable targets. By using the tool to encourage team members in a stressful time, company leaders communicate clearly their commitment to the well-being and future of the employees."
Recognition programs don't have to be expensive. One approach is to have small rewards initially, and make each employee who receives one eligible to receive a larger reward at the end of the year. Some suggested small rewards: a reserved parking spot, an extra paid day off, movie passes, or a pizza party.

And don't forget the allure of cold, hard cash. A small raise, an incentive bonus, or a more lucrative commission structure can put more money in workers' pockets -- and more spring in their step.

How else do you motivate your team in a business downturn? Share your thoughts in the comments section.

(image by garryknight via Flickr, CC 2.0)