Bob Clark is Founder and Executive Chairman at Clayco, a design-build company with more than 30 years of experience in the industry.
It’s no secret that employees have been having a tough time during the pandemic — they need support from leadership perhaps more than ever. A motivational speech or a company-wide email is not going to cut it when business and life as we know has been turned completely on its head.
You’re aware of some of the problems: juggling work and monitoring children’s schooling, worrying about loved ones who have Covid-19 or who work in high-risk jobs and concern for elderly relatives experiencing isolation. Furthermore, it’s likely that a good number of your people are disheartened about the social injustices and division in our country. While everything is in upheaval, large companies have the unique opportunity to deviate from business as usual and use their resources to step in and look after their team.
Leaders throughout the real estate industry have the responsibility to do more than just make high-level decisions to keep the company afloat during an economic crisis — they must actively create an environment in which employees feel supported and continue to be motivated as partners in the company. Happy and productive employees positively impact profits, this we know. But it is the soul of the company that is at stake in times like these.
There are several ways to support and keep employees motivated, pandemic or not.
One: Demonstrate Genuine Recognition And Appreciation
Research has shown that the primary reason individuals are unmotivated or feel unsupported is a lack of recognition or appreciation. Recognition implies that individuals are personally thanked and acknowledged for the positive contributions they make. This is important for all levels of leadership to implement daily, but is crucial for executives who take responsibility for all employees, far and wide.
If your people are doing work at job sites or locations scattered around the country, go out to see them and thank them in person — safely, using social distancing, PPE, etc. During October, I visited 46 of our job sites around the country to recognize our field teams working on-site. The purpose of a trip like this is to let employees know how much you appreciate how quickly they adapted to your new health and safety guidelines during this pandemic. One should never assume that individuals know they are valued by leadership; this should always be made explicit with your words and with your presence. In order to be effective, recognition must be frequent and authentic.
Two: Be Visible And Approachable
Be available, and show that you’re accessible. I’ve witnessed the seeds of mistrust and resentment sown in other large organizations from the mere fact that the leadership is neither visible nor approachable. Each and every Clayco job site has a sign with my phone number. As you might imagine, I receive many phone calls each day, often of a negative nature: trouble because of a job site road closure, a neighbor’s cat roaming one of our jobs, two team members got into an argument; the list goes on. Yet every once in a while I receive a positive note. Even if I am not able to answer the call at the moment, I return each and every call or text that I receive. Opening lines of communication and accessibility to you can prove vital to the success of the company.
Three: Communicate — With Transparency
While most leaders think they are communicating, there’s a good chance they aren’t doing so with enough frequency and transparency. Leaders must define and communicate vision — long-term and in times of crisis — ensuring that the vision is infused into the daily work of every single individual. Although profit and financial strength are a key component of a company’s vision, both the leader and the employees must understand how their work is oriented toward making a difference for others and society.
Employees ought to be treated as partners in the company. Don’t wait for a scheduled quarterly meeting to let employees know what’s happening. For example, regularly send out videos with company updates that are honest and transparent. It’s a nice way to update employees and removes the guesswork, anxiety and rumors. Be consistent with your message and update everyone when situations change. This allows employees to remain focused on their jobs and understand their role in the current state of affairs.
Four: Support The Complete Well-Being Of Employees
Thankfully, companies are recognizing the significance of prioritizing employee well-being, and that it goes beyond the work itself into the physical, mental, emotional, relational and financial realms. Showing your employees that you are just as concerned for people as you are for productivity cultivates a culture of care in your organization. We are our brother’s keepers, and we must look out for one another. This might mean extending personal assistance benefits (PAS) to others like subcontractors.
Remind your employees about your Employee Assistance Program (EAP) and that this plan is free, confidential and not only for mental health counseling. EAP programs provide a variety of helpful services, whether related to work or employees’ personal lives. Recently, a team member shared that the company’s EAP service assisted him in finding a senior living placement for his parents.
Five: Assist Employees In Preparing For The Future
Consider helping your employees save more money during this economic slowdown, like UPS is doing (paywall). Even if people are working, many don’t have much of a cushion, especially for unexpected expenses. There are several programs that can help them save so that they don’t feel they need to dip into their retirement savings.
One such program is SaverLife, a nonprofit which Alorica, a customer service provider, has adopted for its employees. Employers offer some type of match, and additional incentives motivate employees to continue saving.
A little bit of humanity goes a long way, especially in a pandemic. As a leader within your real estate organization, showing your humanity by being empathetic to the real, human needs of your team is not only necessary for your business success — it’s also the right thing to do.
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