It’s not just enough to make sure your employees are engaged today — you have to be able to maintain engagement, even when things get tough. Here are the strategies managers use to keep their employees afloat when stress levels rise.
Training Up to Stick With It
For Ben Landers, President of Blue Corona, Inc., one of the best approaches to managing workplace challenges is the idea of “business fitness.” He draws upon his experience as a semiprofessional cyclist and explains, “When you're training for cycling, you don't train the same way all year long; you periodize your training. During one period, you work on your endurance. During another, you work on your sprinting, and of course, you have to build in downtime to recover! It's not the hard training that makes you faster; it's the hard training followed by rest and recovery!”
And how does that concept translate to business? Well, “hard training” can mean taking on new clients or pushing toward quarterly goals. But in between are times “where things are much calmer — where instead of focusing on growth, we're focused on training and development and creating new ways to deliver more value to our clients. A lot of new employees, those not use to the rhythms of the business, mistakenly believe that the busy times will never end. Rest does come, and after a brief recovery, most employees go through a period of adaptation where the next busy stretch doesn't feel nearly as overwhelming.”
So treat challenges as a time to build company strength — not a race where you drain employees dry and then immediately move on to the next sprint. And make sure your employees know how to use the rhythms of the business to keep themselves “in shape.”
Work Hard, Eat Hard, Play Hard
Rich Kahn, Founder and CEO of eZanga.com, also makes good use of downtime. “Our motto here is Work Hard, Eat Hard, Play Hard!” he tells us. “When it comes to having fun at work, we like to coordinate an outing every month to help our employees let loose and have fun at work. In fact, we're taking the office to go bowling next week. In the past, we've taken trips to Hershey Park and celebrated Christmas in July in Atlantic City.”
And why does Kahn think this is important? “You spend more time at work than at home with your family, and that's why we believe it's important to get our employees away from the cubicle and out into the world to have some fun!”
The company also boost employee morale with daily catered lunches, birthdays and government holidays off, and a commitment to respecting employees’ personal time. The result? Well-rested (and well-fed) workers who have the energy to tackle the tough stuff.
Giving Them a Vision
Speaker and author Barry Maher explains, “We all know our people can achieve more than they believe they can achieve. So show them that. Show them the vision you have for what they can become and what they can accomplish: a vision you may have helped to instill but one you've worked out with them so it encompasses their hopes and dreams. If they think you have a high opinion of them, it's amazing what they will do to maintain that opinion. And the more they respect you, the harder they will work to hang on to your regard.
“And show them the vision you have for the business, a business they’re a valuable part of. More important, show them how your vision for the business can help them get wherever they want to go.
“You want to motivate people and keep them from burning out, show them how your vision the business can help their dreams come true. Nothing is more powerful.”
Anyone can feel discouraged when it just feels like they’re slogging through pointless hard work. But a goal to inspire them can make the difference between staying engaged and burning out.