Maintain Company Morale in Times of Uncertainty

by Sam Johnson

If the events of the past few years have proven anything, it is that companies’ success correlates with the morale of their employees. 

Studies have shown that when employees feel happier and more appreciated, they tend to value their work more, leading to boosts in morale and productivity. At the same time, when employees’ morale declines, they begin to feel less valued in their work, contributing to extended periods of diminished productivity and revenues for the company as well as decreased retention rates — all of which can directly harm the overall health of a workplace.

With this in mind, organizations and their leaders should bolster the morale of their employees in order to maintain the health of their company, especially in times of uncertainty.

“If a company is under stress or having issues,” said Mark Frissora during a recent conversation, “it’s important for senior management and leadership to remain positive.” Frissora, who formerly served as the CEO and president of Caesars Entertainment and The Hertz Corporation, is no stranger to managing and guiding companies through rough periods. 

We sat down with Frissora and asked him what advice and methods other organizational leaders and executives can use to maintain the morale of their employees and companies through uncertain times. Here’s what he had to say. 

Stay Positive to Rise above the Negative

During times of uncertainty like economic downturns (such as that brought about by the 2020 pandemic) or when a company obtains widespread negative media coverage, it can be easy to feel bogged down by the sheer amount of news and information in circulation. When this occurs, the company and its employees, including senior executives, can feel more vulnerable, and that vulnerability can hinder the organization.

“In uncertain times, there will always be negative noise and chatter — be it around suppliers, customers, competitors or the company or its employees themselves,” said Frissora. “But by remaining positive and open to communication, the impact of that negative noise can be heavily mitigated.”

According to Frissora, it is the responsibility of the company’s leadership to not only retain a positive attitude but also to stay open to communication and remain accessible to their employees during these times. 

“Whenever uncertainty arises, your employees are undoubtedly going to have questions about their place within the company, how valued their work is, and how secure the longevity of their position might be,” Frissora added.

Frissora emphasizes that the shadow of a leader is bigger than we tend to imagine. “Your peers and employees will see your body posture and read into it, so it’s important that you take an extreme positive stance as the face of the company. Your attitude will have a huge impact on all those around you, and they will be watching you closely.”

Remain Adaptable and Open to Change

During the COVID-19 pandemic of 2020, one common trait of the businesses that survived the financial and economic fallout was their ability to remain adaptable, changing and pivoting to fill new needs for their customers. This is another realm that Frissora is personally familiar with, even prior to the onset of the pandemic.

“We had some really uncertain times at Hertz, especially during the financial crisis of 2008 to 2009,” Frissora said. “But we figured out how to do something no one else in the car rental industry had done at that point by shifting operations to start a used-car business. We had to acquire some new licenses, but we were able to leverage assets that we already had in place with existing suppliers and partners.”

Additionally, Frissora described how he and his team at Caesar’s performed a similar pivot after the company declared bankruptcy. “We set new standards around the pre-existing assets of hotels we already had, gave those standards and our brand name to developers, and created plans around an audit team to ensure those standards were met.”

Leaders within organizations can unlock opportunities for growth and success by taking their company’s existing assets and finding the best ways to leverage them. Meanwhile, retaining a positive attitude and remaining open to communication from their employees maintains company wide-morale. In these ways, businesses can thrive at times when everyone else sees only negativity and uncertainty.  

Some ways to bolster company morale during uncertain times:

  • Have regular one-on-one meetings with managers of all departments.
  • Address the concerns of employees via virtual webcasts or team calls.
  • Express gratitude for the work employees perform.
  • Reward the highest-performing employees with recognition and/or gifts.

Mark P. Frissora is a successful businessman who was previously the chief executive officer and president of Caesars Entertainment, and served as the chair and CEO of two Fortune 500 companies, Hertz Global Holdings and Tenneco, Inc. With more than 42 years of business experience, Frissora’s expertise spans all levels of managerial and functional roles. He is known especially for consistently generating stakeholder/shareholder value at highly leveraged companies in both private equity and public markets, and successfully leading companies out of bankruptcy. Frissora credits his success to a strong work culture that focuses on customer-centricity, diversity and employee engagement.

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