Building Happy Teams in Hard Times

In difficult times it is tempting for business owners and managers to put engagement initiatives to one side and concentrate on solving immediate business problems. However, this is exactly the time when actively engaging with your people is most critical as they will be analysing and assessing your leadership behaviour even more closely. There is bountiful research to show the positive correlation between engaged employees and an uplift in performance. The other side of the coin is that companies with lower employee engagement experience higher staff turnover, greater absenteeism, higher levels of internal disruption and lower staff motivation, all of which inevitably have a negative effect on the bottom line.

The key is to create an workplace where employees feel involved, where collective responsibility is everywhere and employees feel a sense of control over their destiny.


Some suggestions on how to implement this:

  • Your communication should be both two-way and authentic. The possibility must exist to act on employee feedback and where a commitment is given, to honour it. When suggestions are not in the business’ best interests this needs to be explained fully. Share as much financial information as you can with your people – by being upfront and open you will build trust with your staff.
  • Every manager has an impact on employee engagement and disengaged leaders can cause irreparable damage. There needs to be a coherent and joint approach that starts at the highest levels of leadership. Even if employees don’t like the news being given to them, they will be scrutinising how the owners and managers deliver it and making appropriate judgement.
  • Be seen. Introduce an open-door policy, spend more time with your teams and talk to them. Address their concerns, ask and give answers to questions and have positive conversations. Show that you care by investing your time in them, and be interested in their feedback. Be optimistic about the challenges facing your business.
  • Recognition is a key element of leadership and your employees will appreciate it more than ever in difficult times. Looking after your existing clients is vital, so acknowledge and reward individuals or teams who are doing this to a high level. Giving special appreciation to those who have made important contributions or delivered beyond expectations can lift morale and encourage a positive sense of competition in the ranks. If small financial rewards like gift vouchers are not an option, a bottle of champagne can be an great way to show how much you appreciate them.
  • Creating task forces to solve specific problems can help energise and motivate staff and provide a chance to recognise and reward your key performers. Your employees will feel better about the business if there is a sense that they can do something to help
  • Explore the issues affecting your people and be willing to help solve them. If employees believe that their concerns and suggestions are being taken seriously, it cements the relationship between them and their employer and improves global company culture.


Employee engagement is not dependent on financial performance. Even in the most challenging times, business leaders who are honest with their staff will build trust, confidence and loyalty. This does not mean that all management decisions will be popular, but there will be a culture of fairness and understanding amongst the staff. By involving your people in problem-solving and openly acknowledging their efforts you will create a progressive and happy workplace that is more likely to survive tomorrow’s challenges.