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It is a common concern these days… “I don’t have enough money to give my employees a raise, but they still expect one. Do they not know what’s going on in the economy?” —-The answer to that, is—- yes, they do! But guess what? They have been working harder due to cut backs and layoffs, working overtime to meet the same company expectations with less manpower. As a business owner, you feel the stress of the day to day functions of your company, but so do your employees. The one difference with how you feel and how they feel is this key factor: YOU HOLD THE CARDS. YOU HAVE THE CONTROL. YOU DECIDE WHO STAYS OR WHO GOES WHEN LAYOFFS ARE AROUND THE CORNER. Employees have to still deliver the results that you want while at the same time dealing with the daily unknown in these current times. Still reading? Good!

Here are some tips on how to overcome this challenge:

Keep your employees informed of the current state of the business. 
Be honest with them, and give them hope where you can. Don’t oversell them on the positive points, but if there is a reason that things are looking brighter then share that with them. Share some of the problems with them and maybe they might have a creative solution. Maybe, just maybe, you have an employee with an idea that might just turns things around. Utilize them. Empower them. Give them the opportunity to be connected to the challenges and the success. Don’t keep them in the dark where they have no ability to help make positive change.

Celebrate Positive Behavior
This sounds like a given. It always seems easy. Somehow, it is the most forgotten in difficult times. Look for reasons to celebrate your employees when there is cause to do so. It doesn’t have to be a monetary reward. It can simply be an email saying “thank you” or discussing what they did at a company meeting in front of their peers. Simple recognition goes a long way, and when things are tough, companies often let that lag behind. Remember to focus on the positive behavior your employees display if you want to continue to see more of it.

Create TRUST with your staff and hold it closely.
Be where you say you will when you say you are going to be. Do what you promise you will do every time. Earn the respect and trust of your team and they will stick with you during these times. IF you want 110% from your staff then you must give them 110%. Remember that they watch what you do, when you do it and how you do it and they will remember this when you ask them to give their all without additional pay. It is not enough to say “You are lucky to have a job”–This is a common knee jerk reaction in a downward economy, but tread lightly with this response. Talented employees don’t feel lucky to have a job. The more talented the employee, the harder they are to manage. Be careful and don’t use this response, however valid it feels at times, as it does not usually generate the outcome you might be searching for.

Keep it Fun.
Have a team meeting outside at the park. Cook lunch and bring it in for your staff on a Friday. Host a creative scavenger hunt that centers around learning your product or industry better. BE CREATIVE and break up the daily routine. Statistics show that teams that can laugh and have fun together stay together. Do things that will distract them from the “water cooler gossip” and redirect their focus to business. Catch them off guard and create a fun place to work during these tough times.

If you have any other thoughts on creative ways to incent employees, please share them with us!