As businesses grumble, stocks tumble and industries crumble, there’s only one element of work that remains optimistic, motivated and ready to step up to do something extraordinary: people. In unprecedented times, our ordinary, everyday people who thought that they had security with their employers now realize how tenuous, fickle or powerless their employers are. As soon as this crisis hits their bottom line, some stop hiring, stop paying and stop developing. Everything that they propped up before to convince their employees that they were committed to them on a personal and professional basis, and everything they did to make their employees feel like “family,” suddenly disappears.

The Most Successful Companies of 2021

What are we to think of all their previous claims of commitment, loyalty and civil servitude when business leaders cut and run as soon as the going gets tough? And what do we do with all those logo pens, T-shirts and water bottles? It’s not how an organization treats its employees during an economy boom that counts; it’s how it treats its employees when the economy is crumbling. How companies protect and provide for their employees through these perilous times will be remembered and returned to them tenfold when the crisis blows over.

We all understand that leaders need to make hard decisions and take certain cost-cutting actions to keep businesses afloat, but leaders who absorb as much of the financial hardship as they can, without abandoning their employees, will be paid back exponentially in motivation, commitment and discretionary effort. The fastest-growing, most profitable companies of 2021 will be the companies that prioritize their people in 2020.

As training professionals, we’re always trying to answer one simple question: How do we create an experience that will transform someone into a more motivated and productive employee? Well, here it is: No fancy slide decks, no fancy breakout sessions, no fancy coffee stations … The only piece of “knowledge” that we need to implant in our learners’ brains right now is the knowledge that their employer puts them above the bottom line. If organizations can make that magical morsel stick over the next couple of months, they’ll see benefits and profits that last for years. They’ll create a personal sense of loyalty and reciprocity that will result in more revenue, more efficiencies and more cost savings than any quick fix the stakeholders can dream up.

Sending the Message

How can leaders send that message right now? How can they convince employees today that they care and are committed to keeping them? After all, they’re at home, worried and afraid every day that things are going to change, worried and afraid every time they receive a meeting invitation or email from their boss. How can leaders convince them that they’re safe and reassure them that they are investing in them?

The answer is simple: Invest in them! Sure, you can’t send them on that elaborate training retreat or international conference, but you can send them a sign — a small signal that you have a future together. Give them an opportunity to grow from home. Encourage them to read a book. Tell them to sign up for a virtual training they always wanted to take and never had the time. Allow them to earn an online certification that they always wanted to add to their list of accomplishments. Throw them a lifeline, and teach them to swim. Make them strong swimmers, and they’ll do everything they can to keep your business afloat for the future.

Here is your organization’s perfect opportunity to teach employees how they should regard and nurture its relationship with them. Will it double-down and invest in its employees for the long term — or cut its losses as soon as its profits dip in the short term?