How leaders motivate their employees during times of change

How leaders motivate their employees

If you’re wondering how leaders motivate their employees during times of change, you are not alone. 2020 has been quite the ride so far. 

However, now is not the time to go into ostrich-mode, hoping against hope to weather the storm with your head in the sand and employee morale at rock bottom. In fact, now is the time to go into planarian worm-mode.

What do worms have to do with it? 

Simple. If you cut a planarian worm in two, the part without a head will grow a fully functional head with a new brain. The other part will grow a tail and be on its merry way. It does all of this within 7 to 10 days. Now that’s what we call resilience. 

Here are a few great examples of how planarian-minded leaders motivate their employees when times get tough: 


Amp up the altruism 

At the outset, the South African government’s 2020 lockdown response to the threat of the quickly spreading COVID-19 virus was some of the most drastic the world over, and rightly so.

Our population includes a large number of highly vulnerable individuals and time was required to ready our healthcare system to deal with an influx of patients. Lockdown measures included a ban on the sale of items such as alcohol and cigarettes, which were deemed non-essential. 

This meant that businesses such as Cape Town-based Woodstock Brewery could no longer manufacture or sell their craft beverages. However, this did not stop the owners of the brewery to find a way that they and their staff members could ease the plight of the many destitute South Africans who were feeling the effective shutdown of the economy due to an inability to access school- and church-based food schemes, etc. 

So, instead of using giant copper vats to brew beer as they would normally be doing, they instead filled them with vegetables to make up to 2500 litres of soup every week

Woodstock Brewery owner Andre Viljoen last month banded together with Rob Munro, co-founder of the Brewers Soup Collective, a newly established charity. Their aim is to transform all Cape Town’s artisanal beer factories into soup kitchens during lockdown, to use their idle premises to make soup that was collected by charity trucks and distributed to vulnerable communities and shelters across the city six days per week. 

Other businesses who ramped up the altruism and lived out their company values during the South African lockdown included Vodacom and Discovery that partnered to provide free online doctor consultations to all South Africans, Transnet that made its facilities available as quarantine sites during lockdown, and many more

While these actions may not have had a direct impact on the bottom line of the businesses in question, their moves to support the community won’t soon be forgotten. In addition, they provided their employees with a means of contributing to the greater good and remain positive in trying times. 

READ MORE: How to motivate employees to embrace change - here’s what we know


Look beyond the here and now 

Sometimes, all you need to keep going is the reassurance that other companies have emerged from a global crisis to fight another day. 

Case in point: Lego...

When many companies doing business in US territories during the 2018 recession were drowning, the Danish toy production company raked in profits like nobody's business. In fact, they hit an all-time high! 

How so? 

They kept their company going and their teams inspired by looking beyond the here and now to expand into territories like Asia, and focus their sales efforts on their home turf in Europe. 

READ MORE: 5 Ways leaders can prepare their teams for change


Find ways to add value

When professional organising and decluttering business Horderly were unable to go to client's homes due to shelter-in-place restrictions, they found ways to provide value to their customers and keep their employees motivated by leveraging digital platforms to provide virtual organising services while face-to-face meetings aren’t an option. There are many wonderful examples of SMEs who took a similarly creative stance to keep the home fires burning. 


Recognise and reward innovative thinking

Never underestimate the ingenuity of the people who work for you, especially when the company you all work for starts feeling the pinch. 

Auto manufacturers like Audi are normally some of the hardest hit when the economy grows unstable. This is why they like to stay ahead of the curve by keeping their processes as lean as possible at all times. To do so, they tap into their most valuable resource - their highly skilled employees. After all, who knows their business better? 

In 2018 alone, Audi employees submitted 25 000+ process streamlining suggestions to their internal ideas programme. Of these, 13 500 were implemented, saving the company approximately €109.1 million at the Ingolstadt and Neckarsulm sites. To keep the good ideas flowing, a portion of these savings was returned to Audi's employees in the form of well-deserved bonuses to the tune of €8.1 million. 

While we’re on the topic of employee recognition, we’d like to invite you to take a look at our awesome SaaS-based employee recognition and engagement platform. You can click here to sign up for a FREE trial

READ MORE: The power of employee recognition and why it shouldn’t stop in times of crisis


Open the floor for collaboration 

If your business is in a position to carry on business as normal, but there are many around you that flounder, a great way to motivate employees and keep morale high is to extend a helping hand to those enterprises in need. 

For instance, Olga Sagan, owner of Seattle-based bakery Piroshky Piroshky took it upon herself to make the capabilities of her established delivery network available to other local business owners free of charge when they couldn't sell from their brick-and-mortar premises during lockdown. 

This, in turn, provided their niche corner of the market with a welcome boost that is sure to only increase in reach in years to come. 

See - it can be done.

Now that we’ve reminded you that there is always cause for optimism and that planarian-inspired resilience will save the day, go forth and put into practice how leaders motivate their employees during times of change.

Companies with recognition programs can experience a 31% lower voluntary turnover. So here’s a recognition checklist to help you get your program off your desk and into your workplace. Click the button below to grab your copy 👇

Employee recognition checklist