Motivating Employees Through Challenging (And Rewarding) Times

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There are many factors at play when it comes to retention and employee happiness, but one question really gets at the core of both: Are your people motivated? Motivation is what gets employees in the door every morning, keeps them committed to doing great work and inspires them to continuously go above and beyond. It’s also a crucial ingredient in building happy, productive teams.

But even the most experienced leader struggles with motivating people. It’s hard to be a cheerleader 24/7, and it’s even more challenging to motivate others when times are tough.

I’ve experienced this firsthand at Ultimate Software. In the early 2000s, we shifted our business model, embracing new cloud technology versus traditional, on-premises software. In hindsight, it was the right decision for us as a company, one that has contributed significantly to our current success. But we faced a heavy amount of skepticism from investors at the time and saw our stock performance take a temporary dip.

While it’s easy to let such questioning from others lead to self-doubt, we were confident in our decision. We never wavered, and our leadership team made a conscious effort to remain optimistic and to keep our employees motivated. Looking back, we made it through those challenging times because we were honest and transparent with our employees, and were able to lean on the rock-solid culture we had begun building on day one.

Whether you’re having the best quarter in company history or struggling through temporary setbacks, reminding yourself of a few core pillars can help keep teams motivated through good times and bad:

When The Going Gets Tough, Get Honest

When things aren’t going well, it can be felt across all levels of the company, and employees are going to have questions. Ignoring these questions can lead to uncertainty and mistrust, two factors that often undermine employee motivation.

Help prevent these negative feelings by communicating with employees early and often. Whether it’s a companywide concern (such as losing a major business partner) or it impacts only members of a specific team (maybe they’re feeling the effects of being temporarily understaffed), employees need to hear you have their backs. When you acknowledge feelings of uncertainty, and candidly address the situation, your people will likely feel supported, motivated and inspired to have your back in return.

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