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

Motivating Employees: A Guide for Business Owners

How business owners should handle feedback

Letting your employees know when they are doing well or badly will go a long way towards motivating them. Whether you’re giving praise or criticism, try to remember why you are giving it. If your objective is not either to improve performance, assist learning or development or boost self-esteem in general, think again. Praise or criticism without a common goal is counterproductive.

Be specific on exactly what behaviour you are praising or admonishing someone for and act promptly, try not to ‘save up’ praise or criticism for specific moments. Respond to successes or failures as soon as you can so people have an ongoing sense of how they are doing. Also be genuine but keep it professional: talk about the performance, not the person.

Finally never end with a criticism and complain for the sake of it – always make sure criticism has a constructive output.

How staff can be demotivated and how to avoid it

Arguments with a staff member

If you get into a dispute with an employee, remember not try to ‘win’ the argument and give them room to ‘save face’. As the employer you have to try separate facts from opinions and acknowledge the validity of opinions. The most important thing to do is to listen. Try not to let anger or defensiveness cloud your judgement. If an employee comes to you with criticism, it is likely they have spent a long time mulling it over, and they may have genuinely good ideas. Similarly, even if you disagree, let people know their input is valid. Try and look at things from their point of view.

Demotivating employees with pay

Incentive pay can be an enormously effective tool – but conversely, it can be one of the main sources undermining motivation in a business. To avoid this, start by looking at the competition and checking how you compare. Additionally If you decide to give a member of staff a raise, ask yourself why first. If you only offer raises when people threaten to quit, you are effectively rewarding threats and insubordination.

Also be careful when offering a higher salary to new staff, you may do it in order to tempt a talented new employee but current employees are sure to resent it. Finally if considering using a year-end profit as a target for bonuses, you probably shouldn’t. Profit depends on many things, independent of the efforts of staff. Offer bonuses on factors more closely linked to performance.

When a business runs into tough times

Lean times in a business can test morale – and hence motivation – to its limits. Situations like redundancies are particularly problematic, and should be handled with extreme care. The key to minimising the effect on morale is always communication. Keep people in the loop and back up what you say with evidence as it is hard to argue with cold, hard facts. Also offer support and emphasise the positives, keep as upbeat as possible.

Though it may feel like you’re managing a nursery and not business sometimes, being a business leader comes with a lot of responsibility and work. But by being fair, considerate and offering employees both the tools to grow your business and their careers will mean they give back more to the company.

For more advice on managing and motivating staff, check out our five tips to boosting your staff’s productivity and our guide on setting up workplace policies.

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