The Struggle to Motivate Teams in a Post-COVID World

The COVID pandemic changed many things about the way business is done across all industries. Employers and employees struggled to respond in emergency conditions, placing extra strain on workers and families. As the pandemic continues with no clear end in sight, workers face what seems like a new normal. Unfortunately, burnout is an inevitable side effect of continually working in high-stress conditions. For many employers, this burnout is revealed in actions like large numbers of employees resigning, recruitment challenges, and changing employee attitudes about work.

During 2020, the pandemic brought new phrases like social distancing and masking up into the vocabularies of people of all ages. As the pandemic continues, businesses are becoming familiar with more COVID-related terms like The Great Resignation and COVID fatigue. A record high of 4.4 million people quit their jobs in September 2021. The reasons workers are quitting vary widely. About 2 million workers decided to retire early due to the pandemic. Restrictions and remote work led to changing priorities for many workers. For public-facing employees who weathered what seemed to be the worst of the pandemic, ongoing health dangers are still a concern.

No matter what the reasons are behind the changes, employers are facing a different situation than ever before. As more workers retire than those that are joining the workforce, eligible workers have more choices about the jobs they want. So, how can you motivate teams to encourage success and limit burnout-related turnover in your organization? The answer is all about what motivates workers right now, and how you measure your team’s motivation and engagement levels.

Measuring Motivation and Engagement

While there are many new terms related directly to the pandemic, the concept of employee engagement and motivation isn’t new. Employers are aware of the benefits of employee engagement. In fact, a Gallup poll from 2017 showed that highly engaged businesses see a 41% reduction in absenteeism and a 17% increase in productivity. Still, knowing that motivated employees are important to your business doesn’t provide you with the tools to provide the right motivation. That’s why it’s important to measure exactly what methods are working for your team. Consider how these practices can help you measure employee motivation and engagement.

Establish Goals and Track Progress

Setting measurable goals is a great way to provide employees with quantifiable objectives to work towards. This provides two-fold results as a way to help motivate employees with a reachable milestone and measure how easily your employees become engaged. Setting team goals encourages collaboration between employees, which can lead to higher engagement levels as well. Measuring your team’s response to small goals can help you understand their overall engagement levels.

Invest in Tools that Use Measurable Data

Leaders have limited visibility into the factors that drive or inhibit their teams’ performance. Using tools that measure factors related to motivation can help. Our own tools measure team performance, resilience, and strengths using a series of benchmarks to calculate success. Other tools can be used to measure individual performance and pinpoint trouble areas. By measuring how well teams perform together and measuring individual metrics like conflict style and burnout risk markers, you can gain valuable insight into how motivated and engaged your team really is.

Conduct Meetings and One-on-One Conversations to Determine Employee Well-Being

Although it seems to many employers that large groups of workers quit suddenly without warning, this is rarely the case. Determining reasons why employees are disengaged before you begin experiencing turnover can be as simple as asking targeted questions. You may choose to hold meetings for employees to discuss organizational issues and take suggestions for company morale boosters. If public meetings don’t align with your company culture, one-on-one meetings with employees might offer more effective feedback. Routine assessments to determine how your employees are coping with current events and company policies can help you measure levels of employee motivation.

Ideas to Motivate Your Team in 2021 and Beyond

When seeking ways to motivate your team, it’s important to consider that different methods may lead to different results. Currently, there are 10 million job openings and only 8.4 million people available to fill them. Job seekers, and employees who are unhappy in their current role, are acutely aware of this number and the advantages it can provide. While there is speculation that more individuals will eventually re-enter the workforce, employers are faced with the task of determining how to retain the employees they have and recruit the employees they need. Keeping employees motivated after COVID may require different methods than employers are accustomed to. Consider how the following motivators address the challenges and concerns brought about by the pandemic and why they appeal to employees in the current employment market.

Fair Compensation

After thousands of people were out of work due to lay-offs, limited child care options, or other pandemic restrictions, inflation has climbed to a 13-year high. When faced with options, workers will naturally seek positions that will help them navigate these increased living costs. While improved pay certainly isn’t the only thing driving workers toward new positions in the wake of the pandemic, it helps to consider the expenses your employees face. Review the pay rates you offer your employees and see how they stack up to similar positions in the area. It’s also important to consider the extra tasks that employees take on when companies are short-staffed. Are you really paying your employees what they’re worth? If the answer is no, you may find them seeking employment from a company that will.

Flexible Work Environment

It’s easy to see that the pandemic is still affecting businesses. However, many individuals may be more concerned about the other aspects of their life that haven’t returned to normal. For instance, child care options in many states were already limited, but it’s estimated that 9% of licensed child care programs have permanently closed since the beginning of the pandemic. When forced to choose between career obligations and family responsibilities, employees may be forced to leave a job they’re happy with. Creating a flexible work environment can help individuals adapt to new realities.

Emphasize Wellness

Encouraging wellness programs can motivate employees even when times are tough. These days, it’s especially important for companies to think about the health of their team. This means going beyond just an office yoga session. Provide incentives and paid opportunities for wellness activities, sponsored classes, and other benefits to promote whole-person wellness.

Give and Encourage Time Off 

Employee burnout is a common phenomenon that affects workers for a variety of reasons. Pandemic burnout is a new addition that many people don’t quite understand. During the early months of the pandemic, individuals responded to the emergency with adrenaline-fueled short-term survival skills. As the pandemic dragged on, frustration and fatigue with constant stressors kicked in. One of the most common symptoms of pandemic fatigue is being less effective on the job. 

When your organization is faced with employee shortages, everyone works harder to complete necessary tasks. This can mean that workers fail to take time off to recharge and reconnect with their families and personal lives. The result is lowered productivity and increased burnout. It’s vital to not only offer employees paid time off, but also encourage them to take it. As a leader, it’s your responsibility to model the behavior you want your employees to exhibit by taking recuperative time off yourself.

How to Motivate Teams Long-Term

Employee motivation isn’t a temporary way to generate company improvements or recruit new employees. It’s a long-term solution to create an engaging workplace for everyone in the organization. There are several ways you can create small changes around your company to continually motivate and engage your employees. These tips can help you motivate your employees for long-term engagement and continued success.

  • Set clear goals to provide employees with reachable milestones.
  • Show appreciation for a job well done with verbal recognition and rewards.
  • Determine the incentives that are most likely to motivate your teams and employees. Cash is king for some, while a flexible schedule can mean more to others.
  • Encourage collaboration and teamwork by providing team recognition.
  • Offer room for growth with training and career advancement opportunities.
  • Create an environment that doesn’t punish failure, but uses it as a launchpad for new ideas.

Motivate and Inspire Your Team for Better Results

Uncertain times is another buzz phrase used to describe practically everything surrounding COVID-19 and the related fallout. The atmosphere within your organization should foster a feeling of support and safety to counteract uncertainty. Using a combination of tactics to understand the issues your employees face, as well as specific motivators to help increase engagement, is essential to success during all economic climates. Building work relationships that foster a culture of trust can improve relationships among team members and between individual contributors and team managers. 

RallyBright provides easy-to-use tools to measure, diagnose and improve the collaborative behaviors most affecting team and organizational success. . By using quantitative data to measure employee motivation and engagement, you can gain insight into the incentives that can improve morale within your company.