Quint's Column: Avoid the summer slide in your business
- By Quint Studer
- Jun 12 2018
Summer can be hard on businesses. Every week someone else is on vacation. Employees who are at work aren’t always as focused and on-task as we might hope they’d be. It’s tough to be at your desk when it’s sunny and beautiful.) Employees with kids are scrambling to deal with summer schedules now that school is out.
Despite these summer distractions, your company must stay productive and keep customers and clients happy all year long. This means leaders need to make a special effort to keep employees engaged and motivated. The good news is you can do this while celebrating — and even leveraging — the lighter mood of summer.
It might surprise you to know that, actually, this is the best time of year to generate great ideas. People tend to come back from vacation refreshed and revitalized. The slower pace of summer in general can have the same effect. Employees are just more creative this time of year. It’s the leader’s job to draw that innovative spirit out of them.
Here are a few simple things you can do to inspire and motivate your employees this summer and keep your business performing at peak capacity:
— Keep the mood as sunny inside as it is outside — and start with your own. Attitude flows from the top down. Be aware of your own mood. If you’re upbeat and smiling, employees are more likely to be also. Positivity is contagious.
— Set the tone with a summer kick-off challenge. Call your team together or hold a brainstorming lunch and ask: “What can we do this summer to improve our company?” This sends the message that summer isn’t the time to slow down. You’re not necessarily asking people to come up with a brand new product or service. A small win like streamlining a process can make a big difference in both productivity and morale.
— Hold a competition to generate fresh ideas. Summer brings out people’s “inner child” and sparks creative ideas. Take advantage of this creative surge by asking people to submit their bright ideas for the company. To motivate them, you might offer the winner an extra day of vacation or a Friday off.
— Consider a lighter summer schedule. Consider letting employees leave a little early or take an afternoon off. It seems counterintuitive but knowing that the week is slightly shorter gets people motivated and focused so they can get everything on their list done early. Often they will actually be more productive than if they were working a full schedule.
— Plan the work and work the plan. The distractions of summer can make it easy to veer off course. This time of year, more than any other, calls for a carefully managed to-do list. Regularly update it with new tasks and cross off those that you have already completed. Encourage employees to do the same. It’s so satisfying to check tasks off your list and it keeps the big picture in front of you.
— Schedule a mid-summer half-year review of your business. Take a close look at your numbers. Are sales up or down compared to last year? Why or why not? Are you on track? Have new opportunities opened up in the market since the beginning of the year? Share what you discover with your team. Taking stock this way can be very motivating to both you and your employees.
— Get outdoors or take a field trip. A fun outing—even if it’s just an afternoon at the local park—can ignite your team’s creativity and boost their ability to work together. It’s even better if you ask them to use the time outside the office to brainstorm ways to improve the business or tackle a problem that has been giving them trouble.
— Bring the spirit of summer to work. People need a bit of fun to prevent boredom and burnout. Look for ways to infuse the spirit of summer into your organization. Let your employees enjoy the things that make summer great without ever leaving the office. For example, serve a pitcher of cold lemonade, play beach music, bring in fresh flowers and ice cream, or relax the dress code (at least one day a week).
— Give people new responsibilities to keep them from falling into a summer slump. As owner of the Blue Wahoos, I know baseball players want to be in the game. So do employees. Try putting people in charge of something new or give them new tasks to challenge them and keep work fun and interesting. This is also a great way to show employees that you recognize and trust their abilities.
— Update clients once a week. You and your employees aren’t the only ones who are traveling. Clients and customers are, too. Don’t slip into less frequent communication with them just because you know they’re on vacation. By committing to reach out to them at least once a week, you keep the ball moving. They will appreciate that you’re on task and “watching the store” while they’re away.
— Reward and recognize your summer standouts. What gets rewarded gets repeated. When you notice an employee going “above and beyond” this summer, recognize them in some way or even reward them with a small bonus or a gift certificate to a local sporting event, restaurant, or ice cream store.
Your competitors may be in a summertime lull, but you don’t have to join them. With just a few smart strategies to keep everyone engaged and motivated over the next few months, you’ll start the fourth business quarter at the very top of your game.