To keep employees engaged in challenging times, build a culture of purpose

Many organizations struggle with keeping their teams eager and engaged. This is especially true for companies that are experiencing current market challenges, or have recently lost market share. During these times, leadership often revert focus to becoming more cost-efficient, eliminating waste and shifting priorities towards the most profitable endeavors. However, during these processes, the human element receives reduced attention. Employee's energy and optimism is sapped, and teams are forced to consider how the next budget cut will affect them. 

When faced with challenges, it becomes even more important to focus on retaining and engaging top talent. An organization's culture and mission can play a key role in its employees' response to difficulty: It is crucial that teams respond with revitalized effort and innovative thinking, rather than start looking for opportunities to jump ship.

One of the most vital elements of an organization's culture that will prompt employees to face challenges with confidence and vigor is a view of their employer as a force for good. When an organization creates value for its stakeholders and community outside of dividends, employees are more likely to work harder to regain market share. 

One example of this strategy offered by the Harvard Business Review involves the practices of Meg Whitman, who took over the CEO position for Hewlett-Packard in 2011. After intensive restructuring of the organization, including splitting it in two, teams were suffering doubt about future competitiveness and their roles in the organization. To bring employees together with a common purpose, Whitman launched "Matter to a Million," a global effort to help make microloans to low-income entrepreneurs in some of the world's most impoverished regions.

The 270,000 members of the organization were given the power to make direct donations, and in the first six months, employees made loans totaling more than $5.5 million. While some may look at this initiative as a distraction, it served to unite the workforce with a common goal, generating positive feelings about their employer's impact and future. The value of employees who believe in the work that their organizations do, and have confidence in the fact that their efforts make a positive difference, is incalculable. 

When leadership finds ways to have positive impact, teams will work hard in difficult times to ensure that that impact remains. If your organization is having difficulty in getting teams to subscribe to organizational goals, or are seeing increased turnover at a time of increased market competition,  change management consulting can help find ways to help employees become more engaged.