Creating a Culture of Motivation and Optimism in an Era Void of Face to Face Engagement

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Staying focused on objectives and motivating your associates is always a challenge for businesses. In the best of times developing and maintaining a culture of individual ownership and responsibility is an ongoing effort that can often be sidetracked by daily interventions of “Murphy’s Law”. Motivation derailment occurs when normal processes are unexpectedly interrupted by unforeseen challenges. Even the best prepared and implemented motivational processes can be rendered useless, particularly when the disrupting event and its solution is beyond your control. Motivation is emotional, often unquantified, subjective and more often than not subliminal. But the value of motivated leadership and associates is considerable to an organization’s success. Daily attention to motivational efforts is essential to that value. The COVID-19 pandemic has caused millions of layoffs and disruptions in companies world-wide and many others are being sequestered to work from home, challenging even the most optimistic and motivated organizations to remain relevant.

Remote work can reduce business overhead and improve productivity, at least in the short term. It provides individual employees increased autonomy and recaptures personal time associated with commuting. But it can also negatively impact the nature of personal relationships in the workplace. Physical distancing from the workplace can also interfere with and slow an organization’s decision-making and communication processes. Recent studies are indicating that a large majority of employees are struggling with loneliness and are finding it difficult to collaborate and communicate effectively through online channels. Employers must understand the value of motivating workers during this period of uncertainty and stress.

A sense of urgency is important during this period of separation and workplace disruption. Celebrating each success, no matter how small, finding creative ways to improve the business and maintaining a culture of intensity and drive is essential. Talented employees desire to be members of a winning team, one focused on overcoming even the most formidable barriers to progress. Establish achievable goals and objectives and reward those who rise to the occasion. Motivating yourself and your associates to achieve is not new; doing it virtually from a distance is.

Connecting and reading others’ social clues over virtual tools can be difficult for people who are generally more social. Facial expressions and physical mannerisms can be lost, even to the most proficient online users. Face to face engagement is in our DNA. Insist on effective use of virtual meetings and adapt rewards and incentives to the use of the medium. Encourage your team members by sending regular email messages to reassure them that their role is appreciated and critical to the organization’s success. Initiate opportunities for personal growth and professional development. Be careful to recognize and respond to symptoms of emotional distress that often accompany isolation. Provide added flexibility with managing day-to-day workloads and required performance metrics. Above all, take into account the added personal challenges people are encountering during this period. “It’s about support, empowerment and empathy. People want to know that [you’re] in their corner, and that we’re in it together.” Says Adam Gerhar, CEO of Mindshare.

The digital and virtual tools that are currently in use are not likely to disappear once the new normal makes its appearance. Businesses that learn to sustain and grow operations through utilization of electronic communication during the shutdown are learning some important cost saving and productivity-enhancing lessons that are surely to survive. Companies who shirk the fear and terror of change, and who work hard to engage creative solutions in the new era, will survive and prosper.