From helping people feel more secure to instilling an inner sense of value, here are 14 answers to the question, “What are the most effective ways you keep your team motivated when the company is struggling?”

  • Provide a Sense of Job Security
  • Make Growth the Focus
  • Stay Connected and Engaged
  • Create a Common Enemy
  • Roll Up Your Sleeves, Don’t Deny
  • Instill a “We’re All in This Together” Mentality
  • Keep Teams Informed
  • Encourage Them to Contribute Ideas and Solutions
  • Emphasize and Celebrate Small Wins
  • Develop Employee and Peer-to-Peer Recognition
  • Show Gratitude and Appreciation
  • Invest in Team Growth
  • Cultivate a Culture of Collaboration and Trust
  • Be Transparent

Provide a Sense of Job Security

As an employer, one way I have kept my team motivated when the company was struggling has been to provide a sense of job security. 

It can be incredibly disheartening to work for a business that is floundering, and morale can quickly plummet. Therefore, I like to encourage a culture of transparency so that employees always feel well-informed about the state of the organization, as well as offer ways for them to contribute ideas that can help us move in a positive direction. 

Additionally, by making sure no employee is laid off during hard times—both financially and emotionally—it helps ensure my team remains optimistic and inspired while we search for solutions.

Antreas Koutis, Administrative Manager, Financer

Make Growth the Focus

More often than not, when companies are struggling, all the resources are invested in trying to recover and get back on the upward curve. Although this is a good practice, it’s crucial to remember that employees still need to experience growth in small ways for them to feel motivated. 

So, leaders need to infuse a sense of motivation by celebrating small wins, placing focus on acquiring hard and soft skills, and hosting intra-company competitions so that they feel the excitement and invigoration that growth and learning provide.

Harry Morton, Founder, Lower Street

Stay Connected and Engaged

During challenging circumstances, I believe it is critical to be connected and involved with your team. Check in with your team members regularly to provide feedback and help. Regular one-on-one meetings, team meetings, or other forms of contact can help with this. 

When your staff believes they have the necessary support and guidance, they are more likely to be motivated and engaged.

Gerrid Smith, Chief Marketing Officer, Joy Organics

Create a Common Enemy

Keeping employees engaged and loyal when times are tough is like walking a tightrope. It’s one of the hardest things I’ve had to do as a founder, and the only effective approach I’ve discovered is uniting the team in a fight against a common enemy. 

Whether it’s a rival competitor trying to bully you out, a government regulator trying to shut you down, or a rogue investor that’s lost faith in you, you need to create an “us vs. them” scenario. It sounds awful, but it works. 

Lying to employees about the reality of your situation, keeping them in the dark, giving rah-rah speeches, or offering unfiltered honesty just doesn’t work. Each of those approaches is bound to backfire. The most effective armies in the world are those who have a common enemy and their backs against the wall. It’s the same in business. You need to turn your team into a group of warriors dedicated to overcoming a common villain.

John Ross, CEO, Test Prep Insight

Roll Up Your Sleeves, Don’t Deny

Be an open door. One big fear your team has during hard times is that their leadership will be resistant to much-needed change. Not seeing actionable steps being taken to escape trouble gives them pause about their future at the company. 

As a leader, be open to ideas and insight about why your business is in this position. Listen and then follow up about what you plan to do about it. Nothing helps to motivate a team more than seeing its leader roll up their sleeves and not ignore the problem out of pride.

Jonathan Zacharias, Founder, GR0

Instill a “We’re All in This Together” Mentality

It’s important to turn to each other for support. Leaders need to have a “we’re all in this together” mentality to get through difficult times. Hold meetings and work in teams so employees can bounce ideas off one another. A collaborative environment ensures all ideas are heard and gives solutions to a problem.

Ann McFerran, CEO, Glamnetic

Keep Teams Informed

Employees want to know the status of their employment during hard times at a company. For employees, it’s extremely important that they can bounce back from the loss of a job. 

If your company is struggling but leadership isn’t willing to be forthcoming about it, when employees eventually get wind of it, they’ll be ready to jump ship to the next opportunity as soon as possible. 

Instead of hiding the fact, be forthcoming with them. Let your employees make choices for themselves, based on the realities of your business. While some may make an immediate choice to leave, you’ll find that you’ll not only maintain respect from your workers but that many more than you think will stick it out with their company. 

Employees don’t want to be blindsided by bad news. An employer that keeps their employees informed will maintain a positive professional relationship with their workers, even in hard times.

Max Schwartzapfel, CMO, Schwartzapfel Lawyers

Encourage Them to Contribute Ideas and Solutions

One way to keep your team motivated when the company is struggling is to be transparent about the challenges the company is facing and communicate openly with employees. 

Encourage them to contribute ideas and solutions, and empower them to take ownership of their work. Recognize and reward outstanding performance to boost morale and motivate employees to continue doing their best work. Finally, foster a positive and supportive work environment to maintain a sense of camaraderie and teamwork, which can be particularly important during tough times.

Brenton Thomas, CEO, Twibi

Emphasize and Celebrate Small Wins

One way to keep your team motivated when the company is struggling is to emphasize and celebrate small wins. Even if progress is slow, it’s important for team members to recognize that any progress made is still progress worth celebrating. 

This could be anything from launching a new feature or product, setting up a new process, or simply making minor improvements to existing products or services. It’s important for team members to recognize that these small wins add up and should be celebrated. Celebrating successes, no matter how small, can give team members a sense of accomplishment and keep them motivated while the company is struggling.

Amira Irfan, Founder and CEO, A Self Guru

Develop Employee and Peer-to-Peer Recognition

One of the toughest phases for team leaders or managers is keeping the team motivated when the results that the company is generating are not too pleasing. The key ingredient behind attracting and retaining top talent is fueling the team with motivation.

One smart way of motivating employees, even when the company is struggling, is by recognizing them for their hard work. Recognition and praise are always free of cost and can make employees feel valued and focused to work harder. Developing a great employee-recognition and even peer-to-peer recognition would ensure that employees are feeling accomplished and satisfied when they log off.

My company soon realized that introducing a pay-per-performance model would work as a great motivation tool and allow the company to reward employees who’ve brought significant results. Even if the company is struggling today, incentives like performance-based pay and loyalty bonuses will thank them later for their efforts today.

Johannes Larsson, Founder and CEO,

Show Gratitude and Appreciation

I think it’s important to show appreciation for your team’s efforts since it can keep them motivated. Those who go above and beyond should be singled out for special thanks to show how much their efforts are appreciated. Saying “thank you” or sending a handwritten note can be enough.

Andrew Priobrazhenskyi, CEO and Director, Discount Reactor

Invest in Team Growth

Maintaining open communication and transparency with team members in challenging times can help create a sense of connection and ownership in the recovery process. Offering professional development and growth opportunities can help team members feel valued and engaged while recognizing and celebrating successes, no matter how small, which can build momentum and create a sense of optimism. 

By investing in their team’s growth and success, leaders can foster a sense of camaraderie and teamwork that can help keep everyone motivated, even in difficult circumstances. Remember that a positive attitude and proactive approach can inspire and motivate your team.

Curtis Anderson, Co-founder and CEO, Nursa

Cultivate a Culture of Collaboration and Trust

Almost all businesses encounter bumps in the road, where, if you’re not careful, you can lose a sizable chunk of your core employees in a sudden exodus.

I know firsthand how challenging it can be to keep a team motivated during times of struggle. The key to success lies in understanding your team’s individual strengths and personalities and what approach works with them to foster trust and belief in the company’s path.

I believe that startup leaders should focus on developing a culture of collaboration and trust. Encourage open communication and provide meaningful feedback that allows employees to take ownership of their roles. Celebrate the wins, no matter how small.

By taking the time to understand your team and create a culture of collaboration, trust, and recognition, you can help your team stay motivated and reach success.

Dustin Ray, Co-CEO and Chief Growth Officer, IncFile

Be Transparent 

When the company is going through a difficult period, I make sure that my team knows I understand the challenges they are facing and that I’m here to support them. I communicate with my team regularly and make sure that they are aware of the progress being made and the resources available to help them succeed. 

I also focus on celebrating small successes and making sure that my team knows I appreciate their efforts. I also provide access to the tools and resources they need to do their jobs effectively, and I make sure that I reward them for their hard work.

Finally, I give my team the space to voice their concerns, ask questions, and make suggestions for improvement. This helps create an environment of trust and motivation, which helps us all to succeed.

Johan Hajji, CEO and Founder, UpperKey

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