9 ways to increase employee motivation in times of crisis

Motivation determines how much energy and creativity employees put into their work, as well as how effective and successful the business will be. In times of crisis, motivation is especially important, but at the same time it is often lacking. So how do you keep moving forward with confidence when the world around you is unstable and unpredictable? In this article I will look at 9 ways to motivate employees in times of crisis.

Let me say right off the bat that because everyone is different, it pays to motivate them differently, too. At a minimum, some people respond better to intrinsic motivation (love of work and belief in the mission of the business), while others respond better to extrinsic motivation (rewards and bonuses). So it’s better not to get hung up on one method, but to try different approaches and adjust your strategy based on feedback from your employees.

  1. Invest in leaders

Leaders are the ones who bind individual employees together as a team. In difficult times, they are responsible for leading, managing, and supporting their teams. In addition, leaders must be mindful of the needs of the business as it explores a new, unpredictable world.

Investing in leadership development can require quite a tangible financial investment, but it has a long-term positive effect on business. Leaders not only gain access to better management tools, which increases employee motivation, but they themselves approach their work with more enthusiasm.

  1. Praise employees and celebrate successes

According to OfficeVibe research, employee engagement increases by 60% if managers celebrate their successes. In times of crisis, when employees need to make special efforts to adjust to new conditions, feedback from management is even more important.

Not all companies can afford to give employees extra bonuses these days. But words of gratitude do not incur any costs and can support the team, largely “compensating” for the increased emotional burden. It is enough to mention the successes of employees (necessarily by name) at the general meeting, in the newsletter or in the general work chat room. And if possible, you can also organize one-on-one meetings and personally thank employees for their contributions to the business.


  1. Encourage cooperation

Working as part of a team increases intrinsic motivation by increasing your sense of importance and responsibility. Unfortunately, in difficult times, people tend to shut down, shut out from those around them. This is due to the fact that people are afraid, worried about their personal future.

As a counterbalance to distancing, companies should increase their emphasis on working together and consider different formats. Employees united by common goals communicate better and see more meaning in their work.

  1. Allow autonomy

At the same time, it is important that each person feels like a valuable member of the team, an independent entity, not part of the workforce. Therefore, you need to let employees know that each one of them has the opportunity to make independent decisions in accordance with their values, goals and interests. To develop autonomy in the team, leaders should try several techniques:

– Encourage initiative and participation in common projects. Ask what part of the project each employee wants to be responsible for.

– Avoid categorical statements (“It must be done tomorrow!”) and try to minimize strict deterrents, such as unrealistic deadlines and constant monitoring of employees. Instead, motivate employees by encouraging them and providing positive feedback (“I know deadlines are strict, but your skills will help our client a lot.)

– Make it clear what certain requirements, such as strict deadlines, are related to. People are more willing to put themselves out there when they understand the importance of the task.

  1. Make the work interesting and meaningful

Sometimes employees start to doubt the significance of their contribution to the common cause. This is especially likely if you had to reduce staff, reduce wages or abandon the system of incentives in the crisis. As a result, motivation falls, and this is absolutely normal. It is important to meet regularly and discuss how each employee is progressing. Leaders also need to demonstrate that they are interested in the emotional state of team members and want only the best for them.

The key is to listen. It’s not always possible to change course quickly, but by listening to feedback from employees, leadership opens up to new, out-of-the-box ideas. This helps make decisions that benefit both the business and the team.

To make the job as meaningful, interesting and engaging as possible for employees, you can try changing areas of responsibility or offering training opportunities. Also, to make employees feel that they play an important role in the overall business, you can give them a chance to demonstrate their expertise. Ask them to tell their colleagues what they are working on and why they have chosen a particular strategy.

  1. Focus on professional development

Not all people need to be constantly learning in order to stay highly motivated. However, when everyone is in suspense, it’s important to encourage learning new skills. This will benefit both the team and the company. Employees will have better morale and at the same time learn new skills to better solve business problems.

Employee development is a great way to adapt to the current situation and prepare for the future. By providing employees with training opportunities, you’re also giving them a chance to learn new skills. Undoubtedly, this approach contributes to expanding opportunities and strengthening the position of the business.

  1. Involve employees in decision making

Allowing teams to freely express their opinions and share ideas fosters a sense of ownership among employees. The result is increased engagement at work. So, for a business that wants to become more agile, it’s advisable to involve employees in the decision-making process. This will make them more aware of their importance, and they will be more motivated to work on the decision made with their help.

When introducing such an inclusive approach, it is important to create a trusting atmosphere in the company so that employees are not shy and not afraid to share their vision. This includes showing employees that their emotions and reactions are completely valid and fair. You can say, for example, “I know you’re having a hard time focusing right now, but together we’ll figure it all out!” It’s important that employees know that management is not only interested in their productivity, but also in their well-being.

  1. Improve internal communication

Communication is the backbone of any successful business, and in times of crisis its importance increases even more. When chaos and uncertainty reign around, people are looking for sympathy and support. In such circumstances, it is crucial to regularly share relevant information so that there is no misunderstanding of what is going on in the company.

Talk about all of your decisions and explain how you arrived at them. Share your vision and goals – short-term and long-term – even though they may soon change. Executives often believe that you can only share information that is 100% accurate. This is completely the wrong approach. Employees are human beings, too. They understand that they need to adapt in tough times, and they appreciate being spoken to honestly and straightforwardly. By showing vulnerability, but at the same time showing determination, management builds more trust with the team.

For this principle to work successfully, communication should be two-way. It means not only sharing all the information and keeping the team informed, but also giving the employees a voice, answering all their questions. You can conduct Q&A once a month, set up a wish-box in the office, or conduct anonymous surveys.

  1. Set clear, achievable goals

Someone once said that goals are oxygen for dreams. And while it’s hard to find employees whose only dream is company success, this analogy shows how important goals are to people.

We too often find ourselves in a frantic race, the point of which is only to complete tasks one after another. In such a situation, our actions may seem to have no meaning. This is the consequence of working without clear direction and negotiated expectations. This approach may work in the short term, but it is not successful in the long term.

Employees only feel that they are contributing to the company if they have clear goals. Using a system of OKR (goals and key results) in combination with traditional KPIs allows to achieve the best results, because it helps to demonstrate how each task relates to the vision and strategic goals of the business. By setting clear goals for the week, month, and quarter, managers help employees see what they are working for.