How can SMEs keep their employees motivated in a climate of pay freezes?

1. Focus on leadership development
One of the most sustainable routes to well-being, motivation and employee engagement comes from developing leadership skills and roles in top talent. Leaders define the reality for employees – they create the culture, and we all know how much our day-to-day experience of work is determined by the quality of the leadership we receive. Those that are invested in become the most engaged and effective.

2. Explore solutions
The first step is to recognise that you can’t always motivate people – but you can create an environment in which they feel inspired and confident that they can be their best. So focus on what is working well around the organisation, give regular positive feedback, put success stories as the first agenda item in all meetings (especially the board meeting), and shift from discussing problems to exploring solutions.

3. Separate morale from motivation
Challenging times can be depressing, but they don’t have to be de-motivating for employees – especially in the face of good leadership. Good leaders are quick to separate the concept of ‘morale’, which is how employees are feeling, from ‘motivation’, which is the ability to turn talent into productivity. Even employees who have low morale can remain highly productive and engaged.

4. Dust off your employee survey results
The information held within these surveys is absolute gold dust and will help develop an internal communications strategy which will help create the positive ‘grapevine effect’ and provide a solid foundation for sustainable engagement.

5. Build your employer brand
Creating a reputation as an employer of choice for both existing and potential staff, and involving staff in process improvement, makes them feel more valued, more highly motivated and more ‘engaged’ with their organisation. Moreover, staff are more likely to implement any subsequent process improvement because it will have come, initially, from them and their peers.

6. Create an honest culture
Create 100% honesty about the business challenges ahead and include people in the implications. It will create ownership, loyalty, energy and a sense of oneness. Create work groups – new teams which can get involved with different aspects of the turnaround mission; and establish very high levels of involvement.