When Harvard Business Review evaluated what the attacks of September 11, 2001 taught us from a business perspective, they quoted Ray O’ Rourke, a managing director for global corporate affairs at Morgan Stanley in New York both during and after the attacks. O’Rourke said, “We knew within the first day (of returning to work after the attacks) that we didn’t have a financial crisis on our hands; we had a human crisis. After that point, everything was focused on our people.”
Harvard Business Review and many others pointed out that employee morale was the issue that rose to the forefront of almost every company’s concerns post 9-11. And since everyone from The New York Times to Forbes is comparing the impact of the coronavirus crisis to 9-11, it makes sense to learn from the first event, 9-11, to better understand how to respond to the second event, coronavirus.
As the coronavirus crisis creeps into towns and cities across the country, closing businesses in an effort to stop the nondiscriminatory spread of the virus, many, especially those who earn hourly wages, find themselves without a paycheck. The stress, anxiety, panic, and strain on people’s shoulders during this crisis increases exponentially every day.
How will I pay my bills? How will my family eat if the grocery stores close or I don’t have money to buy anything? How am I supposed to homeschool my children when I have no training as a teacher? What if I lose everything I own? Will I ever get to retire, now that my stocks plummeted? Will the stress I’m under cause my relationship with my partner to crumble? How will I keep my children’s worlds full of glitter and laughter and not scar them forever with incessant talk and news coverage of the coronavirus? Will going to work increase my chances of getting sick and as a result, am I putting my entire family in jeopardy every time I punch my timecard?
With all these concerns, and more, running rampant in people’s minds and by default, wreaking havoc on people’s emotional and physical well-being, it makes sense that employee morale should be of paramount importance when businesses are fully up and running again. Businesses should not underestimate the mental and emotional anguish, and sometimes physical anguish too, of the coronavirus crisis. To know the world can be engulfed by one of Mother Nature’s poisonous elixirs in less time than it takes an amaryllis to grow or eggs to expire is a crushing realization of our mortality and the fact that we are not 100% in control of our own lives.
Here are some tips, compiled by Forbes, to help you take some control of your world back and boost morale among employees:
Give them a reason to believe.
Make your company’s vision so clear that employees can’t help but be motivated and inspired. Employees need to see and feel that they are part of a mission much bigger than the brick and mortar that surrounds them at work.
Show you care.
Do you know when an employee has a birthday? Do you know the first-day-of-work anniversary for each employee? Are you aware of who is getting married? Show employees that they are more than a number, and they will respond in a way that results in a positive impact on the company’s numbers.
Recognize the good.
As the saying goes, praise in public and criticize in private.
Learn the value of “fringe.”
Although you may not be able to offer a competitive full benefits package, there are many other ways you can show you value an employee. Forbes gives the following examples: offer a monthly massage, offer a wellness allowance that can be used on anything health and wellness related, and/or provide healthy food options at every meeting.
Promote from within.
When companies show there is room for advancement from within the company and that they recognize tremendous work ethic and passion within their own organization, it motivates and inspires employees.
Bring on the fun.
Creating moments for employees to bond with each other and for the company to show they care about their employees beyond work should never be underestimated. Forbes gives the following examples: summer parties with activities for both the adults and their children, retreats with activities to relax and/or team build, holiday parties with a “fancy” dinner for each employee and a guest.
Reading Forbes’ tips and tips from other gurus in the field of business and employee morale makes one thing clear: When you invest in your employees, you’re investing in the company.
At some point, the coronavirus crisis will end and one of the worst things employers can do at that point is to say, “I’m ready to get things back to normal” because normal, as you know it right now, doesn’t exist the first day you’re fully up and running again. That first ‘back to normal’ day can not start without first acknowledging what employees, and the world in general, just fought through and survived. Whether your employees were quarantined at home or working around the clock at places like stores and hospitals, their world was topsy turvy yesterday and can’t be righted in just 24 hours time.
It’s by focusing on employee morale that the coronavirus scare will be flipped on its ugly head and will be known as the time when you created a new normal for your company, and that new normal is founded on employee recognition, appreciation, rewards, and respect. And for those companies who already do a banner job at those things, it’s time to remember their importance and be an inspiration for all the other companies watching you and taking notes on how to bounce back as quickly as possible from trauma.
Author: Evelyn Lindell