-Eric Swick, CPA & president of Payroll Specialists, LLC / Swick & Associates, Inc.

There is a famous saying from a Charles Dickens novel that I am sure you are familiar with that goes: "It was the best of times; it was the worst of times... it was the spring of hope; it was the winter of despair." He could have been describing today's economy.

Small firms, especially, struggle with changing market conditions. Uncertain market conditions can affect the productivity of even the most stalwart and loyal employees. Workers who face indefinite futures may find it difficult to stay focused. A major challenge for managers, throughout the ups and downs of business cycles, is motivating employees and keeping them on track.

How do you ensure that your workforce remains productive and positive during these volatile times? It's a tall order — but not an impossible one. Here are three suggestions.

  • Keep it real. Denying the problem won't make it go away. If your company is losing sales and your workers may face layoffs, don't pretend everything's just fine. Open the channels of communication even wider. Solicit solutions from your staff. Employees have a vested interest in keeping the company afloat. They'll often provide some of your best advice. 
  • Shift the focus. Pessimism breeds pessimism. To counter negativity, discuss new opportunities. Analyze businesses in your industry that are showing a profit, even in a down market. Shine the spotlight on them; then go and do likewise. 
  • Show appreciation. No one likes insincere kudos. But when the work or attitude of an employee deserves honest praise, don't pass up the opportunity. Let your workers know they're making a difference. Even if your firm can't offer cash incentives right now, let your best employees know that their efforts haven't gone unnoticed. If you can honestly do so, hold out hope for future rewards as market conditions improve. 

To some of your staff, today's volatile market may seem like "the worst of times." Keep them motivated now, and "the best of times" may be just ahead.

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