Motivating Employees: A Guide for Business Owners
A motivated workforce is a productive one, saving you time and money. Read on for invaluable motivational techniques
You may know from experience that most employees spend less than half their time at work genuinely working hard – for you as a business owner, this can be extremely frustrating, not to mention inefficient and expensive.
However tempting it might be to assume that unproductive employees are congenitally lazy, often the problem is a lack of sufficient motivation. If you make your employees genuinely want to work well by aligning their goals with yours, they benefit from a more fulfilling job – and you benefit from a more productive workforce.
This article explains how you can motivate your employees in order to achieve this win-win situation, including how to dish out praise and criticism, how to use pay and incentives effectively, and how to make the work more interesting in general.
The key ways to motivate your staff
At its heart, motivation is about giving people rewards. These can take different forms but here are four that will cost your business nothing. The first is freedom, by giving employees a range of possibilities at work, you allow them the freedom to choose options and goals. Tying in with freedom is offering staff responsibilities.
People feeling a responsibility for their actions, and that they have the power to influence events, can be a major incentive for productivity. Giving employees more responsibilities will also make them feel like they are getting the chance to move up in the world and achieve their goals, which drives the next major motivator for many workers – ambition.
Also you risk losing employees if they feel their job is boring or pointless. Take any opportunity you can to increase job satisfaction, like giving staff a variety of tasks, more responsibility and by swapping people around – this will help vary tasks and give members of staff a better sense of what everyone’s role is, further developing team spirit.
Finally we come to fulfillment, people have different priorities when it comes to the fulfillment they receive from their job; sometimes it can be as simple as pay or job security, or perhaps a more ephemeral sense of ‘making a difference’.
How to develop the right attitude to motivate employees
Key to developing a motivational attitude towards your employees is getting rid of the ‘us and them’ mentality; you need to stop treating your employees as a separate entity to be cajoled and managed, but instead accept that you are pulling towards a common goal.
Try to treat employees as business partners. You don’t need to give them equity in the business, but keeping them informed about how the company is doing and consulting them before making key decisions will go a long way towards motivating them.
Also create an atmosphere of mutual trust by emphasising the benefits of teamwork and collaboration. Avoid pointing the finger when things go wrong – mistakes are inevitable, and apportioning blame will just mean staff become defensive, cautious and fearful.
Provide regular and honest feedback. You should schedule regular appraisals for employees, and encourage them to do the talking by commenting on their own performance. Doing this shows you are actively taking an interest in them and you will be able to address any problems early. And ensure you are fair and consistent with all workers, this is especially important in disciplinary matters as you may well fall foul of employment law.
Finally hold regular meetings, you’ll build team spirit and a sense of togetherness and take an interest in people. Try and keep updated on your employees’ personal welfare by taking a genuine interest in their lives. People will be more willing to work hard for a boss that cares.
How to set up goals for your business’ workers
Whilst you might have clearly defined goals for your business, you need to translate these into clear and realistic steps your staff can take in order to achieve them. People will be more motivated if they feel the task they are carrying out will benefit the big picture in some way.
Start by giving employees tasks that directly benefit the business as enabling people to genuinely influence the business will increase their motivation. Agree on concrete targets, and ensure both you and the employee can monitor the progress of a project. And make sure to reward employees for reaching goals: this can take various forms ranging from pay and promotions to simple praise.
Finally make sure your staff understands problems. By giving employees an understanding of the goals you are working towards, they will often come up with solutions independently.
How to give your staff real responsibility that will motivate them
As we have outlined above, a large part of motivating an employee will be giving them genuine responsibility so they feel they have power over their decisions and enjoy real competence.
This is not as simple as thrusting a burdensome task at them, however. The process must be carefully managed, following a multi-stage process.
Step one is to give people clear instructions, people will need to be told clearly what to do, and how it should be done. Next is to ensure your business provides the appropriate training. Give the employee the skills they need to do the job properly. You should be aware of how good you are at this part, and improve your own coaching and motivational skills if necessary.
And finally trust the employee. When a worker becomes more involved in their role, your own role should be one of support and encouragement rather than micro-management, however you should still be there if problems arise.