So how can companies maximize morale? Bonuses, travel, and company-paid meals are out. Frugality is in. But without such incentives, managers are challenged to keep high performers motivated and office morale high.
Step one: Get closer to your people. Now is not the time for managers to hide in their offices while their teams wonder what today's troubled times mean for their jobs. Disclosure and dialog are crucial.
Acknowledging the challenges, and plugging employees into your concerns and plans creates a sense of inclusion and builds loyalty. By discussing the problems your company faces, you will likely find employees rise to the challenge by sharing ideas.
Next, recognize your power players. You don't have to hand out greenbacks to show employees that they're valued. Institute a low-cost recognition program to put the spotlight on the people who are pulling hardest to keep the company moving.
For example, institute a "leader board" that publicly acknowledges team players, innovators, and enthusiastic workers. Treat the best performers to a Friday night dinner out. Spruce up their office with a bouquet of flowers. Give them a pair of gift certificates to a local movie theater.
Creative, yet simple acknowledgments can have a big impact on retention and morale. Positive attitudes are as contagious as negative ones. Upbeat leaders in a down market can lift the morale of an entire team. By working to keep employees' spirits high, you're much more likely to hold on to the talent you depend on.