Motivation of employees in crisis

24.08.2020 4 Min Read
Gvantsa Tolordava

Research Analyst

Motivation of employees in crisis

Our new reality is very much alike if you get up 15 minutes earlier to work day, go to “home office”, work, mix personal and work time, head over to your own kitchen during lunch, come across with shopping list when working on projects and mostly spend your weekends on the balcony. New reality makes our behavior and work principles homogenous. In the environment where homes are turned into offices a circle is formed where routine is repeated every day for everyone. How is it possible under these circumstances to keep your work motivation or even increase it?

When speaking about motivation, we most definitely need to mention Abraham Maslow, founder of motivation theory, whose pyramid cannot be avoided by any organization. On initial stage of keeping employees motivated, Maslow considers basic needs: physical environment and safety, following level is taken by psychological needs: belonging, love, recognition and finally, he sees the need of achieving one’s full potential and self-actualization.

According to Maslow’s hierarchy, organizations that fully meet employees’ needs from basic needs to top level, significantly increase their motivation. However, this classic model was altered by the pandemic. Now, employees who had their physical environment covered in terms of basic needs, have an upside down situation: they make stocks of food, pile up hygiene and medical products, stay at home and take care of their own and family member’s health. Under these changes, pyramid is completely altered and it becomes necessary to discuss changed tactics of employees’ motivation.

In Georgian reality, “upside down” pyramid appeared to be most simply adaptable for those companies whose organizational strengths became transferable into remote service as they already had digital processes well-established. To motivate employees, these and other companies had to make decisions based on the stage where large portion of their employees were at.

We are sharing an example of our organization – ACT, how it manages to preserve the bottom level of pyramid so that based on the central part, it supports lower and upper levels and respectively, increases employees’ motivation.

Love, friendship, family, belonging – central part of the pyramid, psychological factors largely affect motivation of employees. As far as ACT’s management follows direct, consistent communication, uses open, free, less bureaucratic approaches, acceptance of their decisions is already quite high. In addition to this, the majority of employees has long history of working for the company, thus, the feeling of love and belonging, supporting each other stands high on psychological level. A feeling of belonging is enhanced during a crisis, when people love to be united, to be in the same boat, this strengthens them mentally and simplifies acceptance of novelties, new initiatives. Being united against the problem from the company’s perspective is perceived as ultimate motivator, while being united around the idea is a powerful tool in the pursue to achieving goal. 

Physical environment – new fears emerged in terms of physical level: preserving a job, salary, mobilization of finances for meeting basic needs, physical place to effectively do your job. These fears compromise lower level and to terminate this, organization needs to have timely and right communication with employees. To address this problem, ACT made certain changes in terms of staff/salary, which resulted in preserving jobs for every employee. This decision, on one side eliminated fears in terms of safety and physical environment and on the other side, on central level, built level of basic needs on membership of one big family. Employees became motivated to create safe working environment for them and their colleagues, thus, the company shortly became entirely digitalized.

Self-actualization – some of ACT’s employees were on the level of meeting the need of self-actualization, while part of them, with right allocation of resources, were given a chance to show off their “hidden” skills during the crisis. Opportunity to demonstrate their potential additionally motivated people to receive recognition from colleagues and level up to the last step of pyramid where by fully realizing their skills, they could turn the challenge into an opportunity. Clear demonstration of this is a new consulting platform of ACT – www.act-strategist.ge formed with the idea of supporting other businesses under corporate responsibility.

When evaluating the steps we made, organization was able to obtain a larger picture through a feedback tool (internal study), based on which motivation of employees has remained the same for 57% during crisis considering the decisions made by management while motivation increased for 33% of employees. Inquired staff members also believe that changes will not affect company’s work: on expectation level, they perceived that company would work in regular regime, while they feel optimistic towards the future operation of ACT. As verified by this example, if psychological needs are met, organization culture and feeling of being united is in place, building values on them becomes quite easy, which is particularly important during crisis.

Featured Insights

Evolution progresses in spiral way, which means that the mankind moves forward and development stages repeat themselves or are very similar to each other. In 21st century, on the background of growing technological and personal development achievements, equipped with personal computer and smartphone, human had to lock himself in “the cave” again and this way, we temporarily stopped and only on expense of intellectual resource, kept developing the idea of inhabiting parallel planet to live. People hope to get routine everyday life back where one has breakfast in the morning, then heads over to work, then goes to café for lunch, from work to market, from market to home, from home to a bar and then makes breakfast again in the morning. Humans have been building this simple life chain for centuries, eventually developed it and now nobody wants to start over. Pieces of the chain are tightly connected and are independently operational units, small, medium and large business fields the majority of which are now in waiting mode. We were interested to find out whether the perception of social responsibility has changed in the crisis or not. We conducted in-depth interviews with representatives of companies of different size operating in Georgia, based on which we created the following anthropological picture of perceptions:

1. In own cave

Sense of danger and unclear situation outside, made human find a shelter in the cave and return back there every time as he already knew the way. Having a roof as an opportunity to protect from natural conditions and hide from outside threat, brought a human the feeling of getting used to own place – one specific environment and he found more or less calmness in this environment. People left alone because of the pandemic headed over to their homes – their forever and well-known cave. Corporations are managed from homes, so in the beginning of the crisis, companies used one of the topical, practically inevitable form of social responsibility – to “transfer” employees to their homes and made sure they stayed there. According to inquired respondents, they made the decision of terminating their work in real regime and switching employees to remote mode alongside the recommendations issued in the country. Quality of social responsibility is determined based on when the business implemented the said – when the relevant recommendations were issued or when the pandemic was already severely spread. But for now when every corporation whose work can be done remotely at least partially, tries to manage remote work of their employees in a way not to lose the sense of team work neither to decrease the interest towards work. This form of corporate responsibility is ultimately based on caring for health of one person and has various forms in various corporations – this could be social package of unified insurance developed in the crisis or equipping employees with protective items at home or organizing special trainings so that when performing work (signing agreements in old form) their health is maximally protected. The least company can do to this regard is to provide licensed version of Zoom meetings absolutely necessary for remote work so that employees can easily work from home.

2. The scene of hunting mammoths 

After getting known with the cave and settling down in it, man started using this cave as a mean of communication. First historically proven ancient drawings on cave walls depicted what man saw and did beyond the cave. Man used to scrap mammoths on cave walls for two reasons – in order to classify (in simple form) i.e. to distinct mammoth from tiger and in order to share it for others. Depicting actions helped human to better plan hunting, have better perspective of animal anatomy, simple ways of hunting them, to do its job properly. To become a “professional” and then share this plan and knowledge with others so that others could hunt better too. In this context, revaluation of social responsibility is defined with the motif to save yourself, to continue work in future and to save neighbor companies as hunting is better together, chances are higher to hunt bigger animal and survive if attacked. As believed by inquired representatives of businesses, influence of international B2B corporate responsibility is eventually taking its position in Georgia. The majority of respondents representing large businesses emphasize importance of supporting quick development and sharing specific advices in crisis, necessity of which drastically changes in narrative of small business representatives. Respondents confirm the assumption that in this context, small and medium size business are most vulnerable, this is why social responsibility of large business is to offer them support. From Georgian reality, so far these are only a few examples such as support in establishment of e-commerce platform or providing consulting on business matters. Launch of ACT business consulting platform served exactly this purpose – to share our knowledge and experience to those who are in desperate need of our support now to survive in long-term perspective and to turn into large companies commissioning us after this crisis so that we hunt down mammoth together.

3. Shared bonfire 

After discovering the fire, man started using it for different purposes. In order not to lose time for starting a fire every single time, he tried to have it on all the time. As together with people “making friends”, perimeter of the caves narrowed, fire appeared in the center of the caves and each member had the responsibility to keep the shared bonfire on. The most frequent and prevalent form of social responsibility is to contribute in this common bonfire, if we imagine that fire is country’s economy or common welfare, corporate responsibility of company is to support separate segments of the society around this common fire (to help vulnerable groups, to support sport or cultural activities). During Covid-19 crisis this had a form of creating unified platform of fight against pandemic and millions of GEL transferred to it. Corporations donated money for common welfare. In addition to this, in separate cases companies financially supported or if relevant to their field, provided their product (food, fuel) to National Center of Disease Control and Infectious Hospital as frontline units in fight against Coronavirus. As explained by companies selling construction and oil products, such purposeful use of money simplifies engagement in social responsibility activity and ensures them from making a mistake – define the most vulnerable group and its needs in this crisis. This form of CSR, similar to its symbolic face – fire, has an effect to spread, on one side, it sets an example for other corporations and motivates them to donate money to cope with the common enemy and on the other side, if we generalize on the example of the specific construction company, CSR can be implemented through such activities which could involve not only corporations but ordinary citizens while business would act as a mediator. For instance, if you purchase real estate under the promotion, part of the amount you pay will be transferred to Covid-19 fund.

4. Thigh bone 

A student once asked famous American anthropologist Margaret Mead what she considered to be the first evidence of civilization. Among expected answers from scientific point of view student considered that Mead would say clay vessel, hunting tools or fire as a mean of communication, but anthropologist answered: a human thigh bone with a healed fracture found in an archeological site 15, 000 years old. This bone is the largest in human body, forms the hip joint which is absolutely necessary for a human to walk, if fractured, this bone needs average 4-6 months to heal. As explained by Mead, when an animal breaks a leg in wild nature, he dies because he cannot hunt for food, cannot move to escape from the attack, is unable to find water. Mead points out that healed femur fracture tells us that someone spent time and resources, took care of the person in need, healed him, brought him food and water, and protected or moved to a safer place before he was healed. This is where civilization starts – with healed femur fracture – with care for others.

Revalued perception of corporate responsibility which changed from simple one-time charity to taking care of employees, sharing knowledge and experience with others, and providing purposeful funding for activities oriented on common welfare, is eventually developing in Georgian reality, but we believe that first sign of civilization for social responsibility is corporate healed thigh bones – those employees whose jobs could be preserved and who will return to workplaces after the crisis is over because they were not abandoned in time of need and were taken care of; because exactly healed femur fractures will be counted after Coronavirus is over, this will be a measure of moral damage done by the pandemic beyond human lives and health and each of us will think about how many healed bones are on us.  



Growth of informational technologies significantly affected human lifestyle who now daily performs operations in various directions by means of personal computer or telephone. It is important for us to have remote access to real time information and services – this simplifies movement, saves time, energy and money. Brands and companies try to respond to needs of consumer. In future strategies of companies their service or product definitely implies remote service too if not fully, but at least with physical sales as this acceleration makes business change communication algorithm with consumer, it is not enough anymore the consumer to go to the brand or vice versa, the brand to go to consumer with its offers, in compliance with modern challenges, when consumer moves, product he loves and needs moves along with him.

Remotely received service is eventually developing in Georgia. As we are getting used to standing in endless lines and checking quality of product or instructions on use at site, it is hard to adjust to psychological fact that in reality, companies are well-aware (based on current experience and observation) what to offer us, how to make amends or change our attitude if we are not satisfied. Main challenge companies face in terms of offering remote offer is the first try of consumer when he begins to realize benefits caused by saving time and receiving comfort, then the challenge is active involvement in his everyday life remotely. To this point, in our reality delivery companies and banking fields are the most successful in implementing this concept.

Daily renewable pace and needs of life results in increased requirements of the consumers towards banking field: convenience of working with the bank, quick access to bank service and promptness of service. In order to meet these requirements, bank needs to offer service and products in every single space where client expects it. Today, this is activation of remote service.

Imagine buying new shoes and leaving house in the morning thinking:

  1. “Want to do it all”

It is no longer enough for the client to receive this or that banking service – now clients are interested in the quality of terms of obtained service and most importantly time spent on receiving the said service. Nowadays banks offer quite a broad spectrum of remote services: internet and mobile banking, outdoor services (terminals, ATMs), telephone and video banking, you can use these services to pay bills, make necessary transfers, receive information on bank products or access to products such as deposit, loan, credit cards, etc. In order to perform each operation, you will need exactly that amount of time you can spare.

  1. „Need to concentrate and localize” 

Clients find it more and more important to minimize live interaction with banks, to avoid lines and communication with operators and at the same time, to increase opportunity of using the fastest and most reliable partner – yourself; as in the concept of modern bank service, consumers know best during what part of the day, how fast and how simply and usefully they can perform bank operation they need.

  1. “Spend less”

Remote service acts as an alternative of the value of so called tear of shoes. Consumers no longer need to visit the bank – spend money for commuting and wasting time because in the world of technologies time is equivalent to money and each minute wasted on standing in line or waiting for operator is lost GEL or USD for consumer.

Bank representatives try not to fall behind consumers’ thoughts and transform along the way in terms of remote service. Beyond consumers’ interests, switching to remote service is important for banks as geographical expansion of bank branches cannot be unlimited. Together with accelerated development of technologies, banks try to come closer to client on the expense of technological achievements which is managed through remote methods of specific bank services; furthermore, technological development and switching clients to self-service reduces costs of banks in terms of human resources, this enables them to invest this financial resource in improvement of the said technologies and fast development and walk one step ahead to competitors.

For those banks which already started development of remote services, created and improved remote products and defined further improvement of remote service as a priority in strategy of upcoming years, this current crisis will accelerate multi-year strategic plan and minimize it to months, consumer will have to better learn how to use remote services under force-majeure and bank will try to make this learning and testing process simpler and user-friendly, exactly actively involved consumer will accelerate the development process. 

As for those banks for which switching to remote service was future perspective, this situation will become a huge challenge. For example, banks that have special segment (age or social segment) will have to do it altogether – manage quick technological development and ensure development of consumer too, teach clients use of remote channels, this is a double objective but manageable and considering future tendencies, this is what will bring benefit for everyone in the end – for bank and for consumer.

As estimated by analysts of Juniper Research[i], as of 2018, 2 billion consumers had access to bank service by means of various gadgets: smartphone, tablet, PC or smart watch. Human life with global ambitions was localized to the specific gadgets, from the agenda saved in smartphone to information on persons that are part of network, from the specialist of specific field to alter-banker. As quality/desire of remote engagement is this high and establishment and implementation of innovative products is done through people (bank employees/clients), companies have to start big things in a simple way – by caring about “shoes” of service personnel and consumer – time, energy, money.

[i] https://www.juniperresearch.com/press/press-releases/digital-banking-users-to-reach-2-billion


What kind of service does modern consumer want? - this is one of the most important questions everyone engaged in service field is concerned with. On highly competitive and mostly saturated market, high quality – consumer-favorite service may become company’s advantage.

After years and years of research done by our company and analyzing feedback provided by consumers of various fields, it turns out that according to modern consumer, formula of high quality service is as follows: being friendly + professionalism + attentiveness + hard work +speed. 

  • Being friendly – naturally benevolent personnel / environment
  • Professionalism – professional staff / properly functioning operational system
  • Attentiveness – true expression of empathy in the process of providing service and desire to help, individual approach to consumers 
  • Hard work – staff members who do their job with love and enthusiasm, who are patriotic – love the company they work for
  • Speed- quick service / minimized bureaucracy   

Naturally, the said factors have different weights of importance in assessing service in various fields. For example, speed can be critically important in the field of fast food, retail trade, while the same consumer may consider professionalism as the most important factor in medical, insurance, banking fields.

Nowadays, service field representatives face quite a big challenge – how to improve quality of service to gain competitive advantage on the market. In order to tackle this challenge, we offer companies two strong instruments: quality service monitoring carried out through mystery shopper method and consumer satisfaction study. Assessments provided by Mystery Shopper enable us to show companies objective picture of strong and weak sides of processes and services in their company. As for the consumer satisfaction study, through face-to-face inquiry of visitors leaving the target location, it enables us to define the most important factors making influence on satisfaction of consumers of the specific field as well as to measure weight of their importance. By integrating these results with the results of service quality monitoring, we give additional opportunity to companies to always assess their service through real consumers’ eyes.

Consistent monitoring of the service quality provides the following opportunities: 

  • Improvement of service standards and processes – it is important the service standard guideline to additionally focus on the issues that make major impact on consumer satisfaction level
  • Development / improvement of personnel training module – over the course of constant monitoring, training module should be designed / redesigned in compliance with information obtained as a result of the study. Important aspects of service seen by the company and consumers often differ from each other. Company may waste effort to develop skills that are among less important issues for consumers. Results of Mystery Shopper provides the best opportunity to re-assess priorities; 
  • Activation of employee motivation scheme / improvement of the existing scheme – motivated employee expresses love and respect to the employer as well as towards his/her job and consumers. This enthusiasm will surely be noticeable for the consumer. Employee who loves the employer brand and product he/she sells provides the consumer with the highest quality of service, also spreads love and loyalty towards the brand; 
  • Identification of new ideas / opportunities – results of mystery shopper act as one of the important sources for generating ideas on how to improve consumer satisfaction / experience of interacting with the company. 

Based on international experience, in companies where service quality monitoring is consistently carried out and necessary measures are actively made in compliance with obtained results, sales may boost by 30%.