As you probably know, COVID-19 has put intense stress on many businesses. This is even true for companies that generally have high productivity and healthy employee morale.
One of the biggest challenges many business leaders like you face is providing adequate support for remote employees while balancing capacity with tightening finances.
Employee morale is a tough issue to tackle. Yet, it’s crucial to your organization’s productivity—and in a crisis, it can even be what makes or breaks you.
Throughout our experience, we’ve found that you can improve productivity and morale during a crisis by leveraging just a single resource: your data.
COVID-19 has placed almost everyone under extreme and sustained pressure. On a personal level, your employees may be struggling with the isolation and constant distractions that can come with remote work. Plus, employees with children are dealing with the added stress of remote school and lack of childcare options.
After unemployment surged across many industries, employees are also facing uncertainty about the safety of their own jobs. Or, it’s possible that they may be working longer hours to take over responsibilities from former coworkers who’ve been laid off.
These stressors don’t just take a toll on individuals. They can also affect the long-term health of your organization.
Employee morale and productivity go hand in hand, but the relationship between the two is complex.
Productivity and morale don’t always rise and fall in perfect sync. Improving productivity does not automatically improve morale.
When things are uncertain, your employees are likely worried about losing their jobs. They may be pushing themselves to achieve higher productivity because they fear negative consequences. It’s especially important to be aware of this possibility during a crisis like COVID-19.
You may be asking: In a crisis, isn’t keeping the business open more important than people’s feelings?
The truth is, your organization can’t successfully navigate a crisis if it’s running on anxiety and uncertainty. You may feel that your employees are more productive, but short bursts of productivity will eventually be followed by exhaustion and burnout.
Morale is the healthiest, most sustainable motivator—whether your organization is in crisis or in a growth period. Improving it will lead to sustained high productivity and higher retention. Once you’ve emerged from the crisis, your employees will remember how your organization provided them with hope, stability, and job satisfaction. Those are the people who will enthusiastically carry your organization forward.
You have more data about your organization than you may realize. To get to the heart of employee morale issues, expand what you consider to be relevant sources of data.
Are insights into financial and operational data important? Absolutely. Not only can this data reflect the state of your organization as a whole, but it can also point you towards the teams that may be struggling with poor organization, low morale, or interpersonal toxicity.
But don’t forget to tap into another source of information about the internal workings of your organization: your employees themselves.
Now is a perfect opportunity to have one-on-one conversations with as many employees as possible—and not just team leaders. By meeting with a broader subset of your organization, you’ll get a better understanding of team dynamics, common roadblocks for employees, and other factors that drive morale down. This is essential homework for a leader who wants to improve morale and sustain productivity.
You can also use surveys, including anonymous ones, to gauge employees’ morale while gathering data about their questions and concerns. Use the information you gather to develop a picture of your team.
In this process, try to leave preconceived notions at the door and see your team through fresh eyes. You may notice that some of your most highly productive individuals are contributing to challenges with the overall team dynamic. Or you may notice that some employees’ skills don’t fit the role they’re currently in.
Every team is different, so you’ll need to become attuned to the particular challenges your organization is facing. If left unchecked, these challenges can make productivity unsustainable, cause retention issues, and eventually break your company. Don’t miss the opportunity to build up your teams and address concerns that may have been holding them back for years.
Once you’ve started conversations about employee morale, it’s essential to follow through.
Start by sharing what you’ve learned from your employees. Present the results at an all-hands meeting so that your whole organization knows that you empathize and share their concerns. Reinforce trust by detailing the specific ways that you plan to take action.
Then, get to work. As you follow through on the plan you’ve created, check in with your employees to gauge its effectiveness. Even if change doesn’t happen overnight, employees will notice your commitment. When you prioritize employee morale, your employees will become more engaged and your organization will get stronger.