During this time of economic uncertainty with people being made redundant it can be very difficult to keep your staff motivated.
So what can small business bosses do to help keep employees keen to deliver the goods?
1. Promote health and well-being.
“A healthy worker is a happy worker” – something of a cliche’ but it is certainly proven to contribute to a strong work ethic. It could be something as simple as educating your staff on how to deal with stress to encouraging staff to start up a company football team or running club.
It’s important to make your employees realise that you care about them and their well-being, besides; they are the force that drives your business! Look after your workers and they’ll look after your company.
2. Benefits and allowances.
Setup bonus schemes to reward your staff – this, in turn, will encourage them to work harder and deliver the quality and quantity to your business.
Give your employees occasional treats – hold office competitions, throw seasonal parties, take them out for dinner, have a “dress-down Friday.” There are so many things that you as a business owner might think are minor but can mean the World to your staff.
3. Communicate with your staff.
One of the biggest mistakes many business owners make (especially those in larger organisations) is not communicating with their work-force. Not only will this isolate you from your employees but it is likely to lead to staff feeling under-valued and will consequently under-perform or leave.
However, it is also important to remember that just because you communicate with your workers doesn’t always mean it’s good or effective. I’ve known many business owners who simply don’t have a clue when it comes to talking to their staff so I’ve come up with a non-exhaustible list:
• Talk straight – communicate without alienating or hurting your employee’s feelings. It is important to be able to criticise constructively as well as compliment your staff members without making them feel uncomfortable.
• Think about how you would like to be talked to and consider how you currently talk to your staff. Do you think they like the way you talk to them? Is there something you could do to improve how you talk to them?
• Call regular meetings (weekly/monthly/quarterly) to let your employees know how the business is doing, future plans for the company and encourage them to ask questions and voice opinions.
4. Recognition and responsibility.
Every employee likes to feel that they deliver something important to the business and as a business leader it’s important to let them know when they’re doing a good job. So recognise the achievements of all your staff members and, where necessary, reward those that deserve it. This could be through bonuses, employee of the month prizes, and, most importantly, pay rises and promotion.
5. Self-development programmes.
Give your staff members the opportunity to develop themselves further with recognised education programmes. These could include: NVQs (national vocational qualification) and professional qualifications such CIM (Chartered Institute of Marketing) and CIA (Chartered Institute of Accountants).
It’s important to remember that educating your staff will give them the opportunities to develop themselves. However, it is important to remember that developing them will also enhance your business productivity and could open up new avenues that may have been previously closed to you.
6. Don’t Play the Blame Game.
It doesn’t benefit your employees to go round pinning blame on individuals or groups of people in your business. Instead try having open discussions with your staff to try and identify your company’s strengths and weaknesses which can form part of a larger SWOT analysis (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats).
Discuss how you could turn your weaknesses into an advantage. For example, it’s easier for a small business to become highly specialised in a specific area in a particular sector. In comparison a much larger company may operate in a broader area in the same sector but may not be able to compete with you on a more specialised level that relies on the expertise of the company.
7. Encourage individualism and initiative – despite mistakes.
You should encourage your staff to be individualistic as this will encourage them to be creative and innovative.
It is important for any business leader to remember that people are not robots and can’t be expected to work like one. Although a robot is less likely to make a mistake than a person – people can learn, adapt and grow as a result of their mistakes where a robot can merely be re-programmed to do what it’s told.
It is important NOT to judge too harshly or be overly critical of your workers when they take risks in business – remember if you hadn’t taken the risk to start your own business then you wouldn’t be where you are today!
An interesting idea that was put to me by a small business owner recently is to list your biggest mistakes of the week and share what you learnt from them with your employees. You should then ask each of them to share a mistake and how they learnt from it with the rest of the office. This shows your staff that it’s ok to laugh at their mistakes and no one is infallible – only human and prone to the same mistakes that any of us could just as easily make.
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