Rethinking team motivation in the 'New Normal'
Finding ways to keep teams motivated isn't a one-size-fits-all gig. Industries have their nuances that attract different personalities, and personal motivations change as we mature. The size of the company also plays a role. These were things that companies always had to deal with when it comes to team motivation. But now there's the added challenge of a massive increase in remote workers.
While some people are thrilled to be able to work from home, others aren't at all. And some started out enthusiastically, but have found their enthusiasm slowly waning. Employers have to find new ways to build team motivation in a fully or partially remote workforce.
Remember, Covid-19 arrived suddenly, and uninvited, so many employees weren't given a choice to work remotely; they just had to accept it.
Few leaders have any training in how to motivate people under these unique circumstances, plus they have to deal with their own emotions and feelings in a global pandemic. There's also no time to do a quick crash course motivation theories because we're already in the midst of the escalation of employees working off-site.
Your workforce is always going to be the life-blood of your organization. No matter how many grand plans and driving ambitions you have, without people to carry them out well, you're stuck on the road to nowhere.
Get ready for a crash course in remote team management as we've got 13 excellent ideas to get remote team motivation out of the starting blocks.
Team motivation is a process of empowerment.
Conduct a workforce analysis
Step back and analyze your workforce person by person. Work closely with all department managers and team leaders to confirm what role each remote employee has adopted.
Don’t worry if you don’t have the full picture immediately after a crisis; everything tends to happen very suddenly. Collect the data you need to collect — that's what this step is for.
Create an organizational chart and assign responsibility for specific teams to individual team leaders. Then create a separate group – the leadership team, from the CEO to every supervisor.
Work cohesively to improve team motivation
All leaders must collaborate and work cohesively to motivate workers who are off-site successfully. There has to be a core strategy that’s embraced by all leaders and separate strategies that branch out to suit individual teams.
Agree on operational details
Agree upfront on budgets, operational changes, investment in new equipment, software, etc. and which teams will remain remote and which will return to site at a later stage. You don’t want these issues bogging down progress. Being actively kept on top of things will keep the leadership team motivated, and that will filter down to team members.
Ensure that all remote employees have what they need
Just like people are more productive if they work in a safe, well equipped and pleasant work environment, remote workers must also get set up for success. The priority of team leaders must be to check in with each team member to confirm that they have everything they need to get their job done correctly and within a reasonable time.
You might have agreed that people who already have suitable technology and equipment of their own can use it for work purposes. Pay them a stipend to cover their costs. The stipend calculation must be fair, transparent and paid at an equal rate irrespective of the level of the role.
The staff that don’t have everything they need must get equipped at the company’s cost. Have team leaders discuss contractual obligations for equipment supplied. Also, discuss how job descriptions have changed with each employee. Get the amendments across to the as soon as possible.
People must know what’s expected from them, what their priorities are and how their performance will be measured. Don’t expect staff to reorganize their schedules on their own. Being unsure can lead to demotivation and even insecurity.
Have an online team bonding meeting as soon as possible
Team leaders must set up an online team meeting as soon as is practical (like as soon as everyone’s workstation gets set up). This is crucial because colleagues were accustomed to sharing their workspace, and now they’re separated.
There can potentially be two adverse outcomes:
- People can quickly feel isolated, excluded and alienated, which can lead to defensive behavior. Loss of trust comes easily when we don’t know what’s going on.
- Colleagues can start contacting each other to find out what’s happening, and that can lead to rumors and insecurity. People can lose confidence in management.
Ensure that the bonding meeting is only about reconnecting as a team and not about ops, goals and deadlines. Open channels of communication so that employees can easily contact team leaders to discuss work or personal challenges. Team leaders must avail themselves and respond quickly so that people feel connected and heard.
Set clear goals and deadlines
During the online bonding meeting, advise team members that you’ll be distributing individual work schedules for each of them listing priorities, responsibilities and deadlines. Also send the entire team’s goals, objectives and timelines to everyone. That way, they all know what’s expected from them individually and collectively. It also represses rumor-mongering.
Encourage team collaboration, feedback, informal check-ins and progress reports. Be open, encouraging and ask the team for their input, at any time on anything they’re working on. That way, people still feel relevant, and employee engagement gets enhanced.
Have one on one check-ins
Check-in with each team member individually at least once a week. Unless there are issues, it doesn’t have to be lengthy. Also, don’t only make it about work. Make a point of asking everyone how they’re coping and feeling. Be receptive and empathetic. If someone sees the personal side of you (which leaders often hide at work), it can change their attitude and breed loyalty.
At this time, in particular, keep an eye out for emotional or financial pressures. If you think that these could be an issue, find a way to address them tactfully. Often people feel they might seem inadequate if they speak about things like this. Offer reassurance that personal discussions are strictly confidential and see how the company can assist. Support such as a salary advance or paid online counseling can go a long way to improving someone’s life.
Employers are understandably concerned that productivity won’t be what it was onsite but don’t give in to the temptation of micromanaging. Give people leeway and the benefit of the doubt. Once people know their role within the team and are collaborating with each other, allow them to resolve issues on their own.
Also, don’t implement strict time management rules. If someone isn’t immediately available, give them a while. Remote work is different from working on site. We can’t just walk over and have a chat. And employees can’t sit at their workstation without taking a break in case someone contacts them. Yes, you have to maintain a semblance of regular working hours, but you must be flexible. The main thing with remote work is that deadlines are met.
Handle failures with tact and emotional intelligence
Unless you’ve employed an experienced freelancer, all remote employees are still on a learning curve. It’s very easy to estimate time available when you’re working onsite. If you’re working from home, in particular, things happen that throw you off course. People must learn to adapt, and that takes time.
Deal with the problem constructively and encouragingly. If teams are regularly engaging, the team leader should have a fair idea of progress. However, if someone’s left to their own devices for days on end, that’s your learning curve!
Whatever happened, don’t punish, reprimand or ridicule anyone in front of the rest of the team. In a one on one, explain the impact and ask how they can prevent it from happening again and if you can do anything to help.
Emotional intelligence really is your key to great leadership, and a truly motivated team.
Have a weekly online team catch-up meeting
This is usually best done the last thing on a Friday or early Monday. Catch up as a team and chat about the past week and the week ahead. Keep it friendly and encourage the input of ideas.
Add in some planning and share progress, milestones achieved and acknowledge team contributions. Although this is a business meeting, keep an element of fun and lightheartedness to encourage team motivation.
Allow people to make an impact
If your organization is going through a really rough patch now or has to make radical operational changes – put it out there in online meetings. Be honest, open and transparent about what the potential consequences are. Ask for input, ideas and opinions.
Showing vulnerability as a leader isn’t a weakness; it takes a lot of courage. Many people will step up above and beyond in times of crisis. Especially if they feel a strong team and company connection, you could find employees wanting to make a positive impact; give them the opportunity.
Encourage a culture of learning
Although formal training courses, learning from peers and team leaders is as relevant as ever, go a step further and offer the opportunity of personal learning. Allocate employees a budget to buy a book or take online lessons in anything they want. Encourage them to share pics of their progress or interesting info within the group chat services. These can also become banter during team catch up meetings. The main benefit is to keep people actively interested in self-improvement and involved with each other.
It keeps the background workplace chatter, that’s so vital in building healthy interpersonal relationships, alive and well.
Also, a curious and positively active mind can ward off negative thinking that can lead to anxiety, depression and feelings of loneliness. Don’t hesitate to upskill someone either if they want to make an impact but lack relevant skills. Not only are you contributing to their career development, but their knowledge will benefit the organization in the long run.
Openly give recognition and reward
Although you should always do this, people need it now more than ever. Research has shown that many remote employees actually put in more productive hours than when they were on site. If you see that anyone is going above and beyond to meet a tight deadline, give them credit. The same goes for anyone who comes up with a workable idea that gets implemented or who improves systems.
Whatever contribution is made, openly give the employee credit and share their input with the team. And not just a “well done!” Explain the impact of their actions, why it added to team success and why it matters. If you offer a reward just ensure that you’re consistent for all team members. Having something positive at the end of the line can be excellent for team motivation.
Many people across the globe are suffering, and it’s going to continue for some time yet. There’s nothing that will boost team motivation like having them give back to the community. Brainstorm ideas of how you can give back to your community as a team. There’s so much need that the options are endless.
From collection and distribution of food parcels to helping animal shelters and even signing up to chat online with older people in care homes; there’s so much you can do. Adopt one or a few causes and allow the team to take the lead in arranging and taking action under the team or company banner. Give them some paid company time to get this done.
Don’t stop having fun together
Since social distancing is the new normal, you might think that you can’t have fun together anymore. Challenges and crises lead to significant innovations, and there are plenty of options to enjoy remote time together. From arranging pizza delivery for everyone on the team and then enjoying online lunch together to a virtual dance party, there’s no excuse not to spend some relaxation time together.
Why is team motivation important?
Simply because in evolutionary terms, human beings are pack animals. In nature, packs rely on each other for support, comfort, protection and survival. They have a hierarchy, individual roles, there's ongoing interaction, and the pack stands together, always!
Companies and teams aren’t much different. There’s a need for interconnection, which is crucial for team success. In the wild, pack cohesion and survival is up to the alpha male or female. In business, its team leaders and organizational leadership that must ensure that people are motivated to succeed. Building the right company culture leads to happy and secure employees who are engaged and productive.
Many team-building exercises improve team motivation, so leadership must be creative and also attentive to change. You can’t be a one-trick pony and keep expecting good results. Keep thinking of ways to keep your teams motivated, included and relevant.
One of the challenges with remote teams is that distance can obscure personalities and hide attitudes and motivations. Using a people analytics platform like F4S keeps your teams connected, identifies motivations and offers each individual an opportunity for self-motivation and development.
From a management perspective, you can use benchmarking to reassign roles to suit individual strengths. You can also work together with employees and leaders to improve weaknesses (or blind spots as we prefer to call them.)