Motivating Employees During a Crisis

By Aditya Mishra | March 28, 2020

“In a time of domestic crisis, men of goodwill and generosity should be able to unite regardless of party or politics”, said John F. Kennedy.
Covid19 has pushed humanity against the wall. Many organisation are staring at a decline of 25% to 100% in their revenues. Would their leaders reduce their indirect costs or they would convince their shareholders to bear the brunt? Their actions will have an immediate impact on employee morale.

Protect Jobs

Heartening to see large companies protecting jobs and salaries of their employees in the current times of lockdown, unprecedented of this scale for decades. Government of India, RBI, and several State Governments have brought in several measures to fight this pandemic. The announcements of these companies soothe the nerves of thousands of people and bring the much-needed succour to their lives and their families. Nothing like the assurance of the monthly wages!
On the ground, several companies have been quick to adjust their costs. They would know, their actions would not stand the test of moral standards. In the last couple of weeks, we have seen thousands of people registering as unemployed in the US. In India, the scenario of layoff isn’t way different. The fact is that MSMEs and many other private enterprises simply do not have the resources to keep paying for their indirect costs in full. This is a tug of war between living the day and image building for the long term. This debate is yet to be settled, but there is no doubt about the impact of protecting jobs on employee morale.

Fight for the cause of employees

All employers will not have the wherewithal to protect the jobs and wages in full. They must do their best to influence the Government to provide financial assistance to the employees as citizens of the nation. In times of crisis, casual workers often find no work and stare helplessly at the sight of losing their livelihood. Employers must play a role there in helping them lead their life with dignity.
Skill development is the least that companies can do to help their employees prepare for the future. However, this is not practised often because the management team normally is overworked in finding ways of dealing with the crisis and finds no time to think about preparing the workforce for the future. This is not only important for the organisation’s future but also a contribution that an organisation does for the employees.

Communication is the most critical cog in the wheel

At the times of a crisis, internal or external, top leaders of the organisation normally think about the external stakeholders like clients, stock markets, shareholders and government first. Unfortunately, their focus on employees gets a lower priority often. As a result, rumours spread and employees lose confidence in their management team. They fail to respond to the others about their organisation’s response to the crisis. We saw different countries respond differently to the onslaught of the coronavirus. Similarly, organisations respond differently at times of crisis.
Leaders have to tell the truth, communicate often and involve their employees in generating ideas of dealing with the crisis. At the times of crisis, leaders have to get closer to the employees; reward and recognise hard work and outstanding efforts of individuals and showcase each person who walks the extra mile to every nook and corner of the organisation.
COVID-19 has gripped us tightly right from our day to day existence to the business world; threatens the future of several families and businesses. Leaders who combine their generosity, relatedness to their employees with rigorous execution will keep up the trust levels of their employees and be in a strong position to deliver results when normalcy is restored.
Some more thoughts:

HR Team’s dealing with a Pandemic