Small Business Leadership: Motivating Employees

Standing Row of People Holding Letters for the Word Motivation representing a diverse group of happily motivated employees in a positive workplace

This is part 2 in a series of small business leadership posts.

Read part 1 for advice on how to delegate tasks and manage your time.

Motivated employees are productive employees. They are more loyal and work harder. They have better attitudes and offer a higher level of customer service. Having motivated employees not only creates a more desirable workplace – it can increase your productivity, efficiency and profitability.

As a small business owner and leader, one of your most challenging and rewarding responsibilities is motivating others to work at or beyond their capacity. Only you can give them the feedback that they seek. Only you can empower them to work independently. Only you can reinforce actions and activities with proper recognition. While others may try, in the long run, yours is the only opinion they care about. Are you ready for the challenge?

It is not uncommon to believe that money is the best motivator. Let’s start by dispelling that myth.

People come to work for a variety of reasons – most of them have nothing to do with money. As a matter of fact, in a number of polls to determine the root of employee satisfaction, money is often never mentioned. Fifty percent of the core elements in these poll results are related to how the employee feels – encouragement, caring, feelings of importance, empowerment, opportunity and recognition.

Another twenty percent comes from the knowledge that what they do matters – my opinion counts, my manager asks for my feedback, I am kept informed on what is expected.  In work as in life, in order for anyone to be motivated they must feel they are having their needs met in addition to perceiving they are valued.

How to Motivate Employees

If you want to master the skill of motivating employees you first must fully understand what they need and how they perceive how they are valued in order to evoke the right feelings to result in more motivation. Here are a few suggestions.

Support Their Desire to Succeed

Not everyone has a natural desire to succeed. Some have desire but feel do not have clarity on what will satisfy that desire. As a leader, you can motivate employees by helping them to clarify their desire to succeed and then supporting them in reaching their goals for success. The best way to do this is through career planning, goal setting and regular goal updates and reviews. Give them a chance to share their career goals and ask how you can help them to achieve them.

Confirm Their Role and Purpose

My small business owner clients report that their employee satisfaction polls often list “knowing what is expected” as the number one criteria for employee satisfaction. Satisfied employees are motivated employees. In work as in life some people pass through days aimlessly and confused about why they are doing what they are doing. They lack purpose. Everyone wants to feel what they do matters. You can help them to achieve that by giving them clear expectations and telling them how their role contributes to the overall success of the organization. If you find they still wander about aimlessly (tardy, do not finish projects, complain) then it is possible they are not a good fit for you and your company values.

Promote a Sense of Responsibility

A sense of responsibility begins with knowing what you are responsible for. In the workplace that begins with a clear job description that outlines job summary, duties and function. Be sure every employee has a job description and that it is updated as their functions expand.

Offer Praise and Encouragement

People need to know that you believe in and are pleased with them long before a job is done. Often they also need an outside view of their talents and strengths and want to gain your opinion on whether you think they can succeed. This is recognition or praise in advance of completing the work. The chances of them doing well are significantly greater if you set an expectation that they will succeed through praise. This takes on the significance of a promise and promises are powerful motivators. Take the time to notice how your employees are performing. Praise accomplishments, small and large.

Recognize and Reward

One of the best motivators is reinforcement through recognition and reward. Not all rewards and recognition are the same. Remember, money is not always the best motivator. Most employees rate public recognition and personal attention higher than monetary reward.  A shout-out in a meeting or email (to the team),  a certificate or sign, a surprise lunch or party, a special parking place, a learning experience such as a class or event, or even a simple “thank you” in public are all great ways to recognize and reward. Caution though, it is a fact that owners routinely reward employee behaviors they are trying to discourage and fail to reward the behaviors they actually want.  One example of this might be that a business owner who wants to build teamwork actually rewards only individual accomplishments. Another is ignoring sloppy work if you talk about the importance of quality. The bottom line is you get what you recognize and reward. Recognize and reward the right behavior and often.

Promote Loyalty and Team Spirit

People who work together often build bonds as strong as or stronger than those they have with family. In fact, most work teams spend more time together than they do with their family members. With that much invested, it only makes sense that loyalty to the group will develop. As manager, you are the head of this work family. You have to be respected, looked up to, trusted and relied upon. Play that role well and find ways to promote a team spirit. Give the group projects to do together and recognize them as a team for their efforts.

Examine How You Motivate People

Take a close look at each of these suggestions and ask yourself, “Do I do that? Could I do it better?”

If you are not sure, ask your employees to give you feedback. That alone will send a message that you value their opinion and want to meet their needs.

For more expert advice on how to run a small business and cultivate loyalty in the workplace, reach out to Sherry Jordan!

Read Small Business Leadership, part 1: Top Three Reasons to Delegate

 

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