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How to keep staff motivated in your business

SMEs often can’t compete with the wages and benefits offered in massive corporations. Don’t let that put you off improving your workplace. Money isn’t everything when it comes to breeding a positive, high-performance culture. Big companies can seem faceless and cold, with workers feeling like cogs in a giant machine. This is where you’ve got the advantage in making your employees feel valued and important. Use these 10 ideas to craft a kick-ass culture and keep staff motivated.

1. Keep them involved

As an SME owner, you’re in a fantastic position to be transparent and include your staff in weekly catch-up meetings. They’ll be more engaged if they’re on board with the overall business plan. Use the meeting to report on wins and areas for improvement. Update staff on what you’re working on that week. Provide regular updates on company activity and progress. Ask for their opinion on decisions you need to make that week. Your employees will feel like their hard work is appreciated and their opinion valued, meaning they’ll feel more motivated to reach business goals. You could get some good new ideas to boot.

2. Provide supportive leadership

Leadership is one of the biggest factors that determines employee motivation. Great leaders act as role models, holding themselves to a high standard of accountability. They work closely with employees. Developing trust and providing a sympathetic ear go a long way to building strong working relationships. Good leaders know that the expectations they have of their team influence how staff see themselves. If you see real potential in someone, they’re more likely to succeed. If you expect them to miss the mark, they’re more likely to fail. If you start from the assumption that your employees are talented and hardworking, you’ll be fostering the conditions that lead to success.

3. Create a positive environment

Many employees will spend most of their waking hours in your business environment. Make that environment as pleasant as possible. Consider the physical aspects. Is it clean and functional? Do you have ergonomically correct office furniture? Is it light and airy? Consider the vibe. Can employees openly talk and share information? Can they get support when they need it? Create a positive space for communication. Employees should be able to raise issues and admit mistakes without fearing humiliation. Consider – is the daily grind too monotonous? Are there ways to shake things up and challenge employees to step outside their comfort zone? Think about how you could make the workplace more fun. Consider adding music, a space to take a break or exercise in and keeping a stocked up fruit bowl or breakfast station. Ask your staff for ideas on how to make the environment more positive.

4. Empower them

Empowering employees means giving them opportunities to tap into and develop their talents. It’s demoralising being stuck in a job that doesn’t allow you to use your skills and abilities. Give them opportunities to design and take charge of projects that match their skillset. Don’t micromanage them. Give them control over individual tasks and projects. Let them get creative with their work as a way to express themselves. An employee whose unique skills and talents are being recognised and developed is going to be more motivated.

5. Encourage teamwork

From the football field to the boardroom, nothing is better at keeping an individual responsive and motivated than belonging to a team. Never forget we are social creatures who thrive on interpersonal connection. Get your staff to work in teams to complete tasks. Encourage some friendly competition. Organise opportunities for team bonding including lunches, Friday afternoon drinks and outings. The intimacy created in these settings spills back over into work. If they’re working with a team of people they genuinely like and are close to, staff will be happier and more productive.

6. Offer flexible working arrangements

A recent study found that Millennials cited “lifestyle” as the number one most important factor when it comes to job satisfaction. This trend isn’t going anywhere, so jump on it to remain competitive. Flexible working opportunities can benefit everyone involved. Don’t wait for staff to request it, make it an integral part of the work week. Why not let employees work from home one day per week, or spend an afternoon working at a nearby library or cafe? Encourage them to visit industry conferences and events. Start holding your regular meetings outside of the office. Changing up the environment prevents boredom and stagnation. This will boost motivation levels and your employees will know you trust them to get the work done without being micromanaged.

7. Recognise and reward

If you’re not already doing it, recognition and reward are vital to a positive and productive workplace. It doesn’t have to be much. A genuine thank you for a job well done, an employee of the month plaque or a voucher for a local restaurant create real motivation, especially when the recognition takes place in front of the team. Why not use vouchers for work-from-home days and Friday afternoon early marks? Done consistently, low-cost programs like these remind employees that they are appreciated, one of the key requirements for them to feel motivated.

8. End the week on a high

Employees that have fun at work are more likely to report higher levels of overall wellbeing. Friday’s are the perfect time to inject some fun. Why not make it a casual day with a slightly earlier finish? Or provide breakfast or lunch each Friday. You could have staff take it in turns to make (or buy) some food to share with the team. Buy a case of beer (and maybe a few pizzas), and have Friday afternoon happy hour. There’s an idea to suit every budget and preference.

9. Rethink job titles

Job titles matter. They form part of your identity. They matter when you meet new people and when you serve customers. If you’re proud of your job title you’ll be more motivated to keep it. SMEs have more flexibility than large corporations when it comes to this. Give your employees a motivational boost by giving them a title they’re proud of. Why not ask them for ideas as to what it could be? As they grow in the business, change job titles to reflect this. Make it something that reflects how hard they work and they’ll be more motivated to reach their potential.
10. Eliminate boredom and dissatisfaction

Boredom and dissatisfaction can easily sap employee motivation. Keep things lively and new. Avoid routine. Find ways for employees to be inventive. Can you put a new spin on old tasks? Gamify – just Google “gamification in the workplace” for a range of ideas on how to introduce games and leaderboards to keep things fun. Try not to let the same repetitive tasks fall on the same people. Schedule regular, short breaks so employees can go for a walk or check in with family and friends. Get feedback on what your employees are dissatisfied with and eliminate these things as much as possible. These factors could include excessive paperwork, micromanagement or a lack of vision for their future. Just knowing that management is aware of the issues and trying to fix them can keep employees on track and motivated.

Unlike people who work for huge corporations, SME workers can clearly see the impact their contributions have on the overall business. Use this to your advantage. Keep lines of communication open and touch base regularly about how the business is progressing towards its vision. Consistently ask your employees for their ideas and input; make sure they feel involved in the big picture. This will give you the edge over big, cold corporations and have staff thinking twice about starting a new job search.