Getting the very best from your staff can be more complex than simply signing paychecks. There’s a big difference between an employee who simply shows up for work and one who’s dedicated to going the extra mile, giving their absolute best. The strongest employees tend to be the ones who are inspired and passionate. Wonder how to train your staff to be passionate?
Reciprocity may be the key.
If you want your employees to be excited about their work, it often helps if you are excited about your employees. Consider investing some effort in cultivating a culture of dedication. Here’s how you can help do that.
1. Have a clear vision.
Money’s good. Happy customers are good. But there can be more to getting the job done right than just cashing a paycheck. A clear understanding of your company’s larger goal, and being able to articulate that vision to your staff, may help. Understanding the ways in which your company makes the community a better place to live may be the difference between engaged, dedicated employees and those who simply punch in and punch out. A common sense of purpose can pull you and your team together, and knowing where you’re headed may make it easier to actually get there. Try to make it clear that a job at your company is more than just a paycheck.
2. Recognize people publicly.
You may be familiar with the sage advice to praise in public and correct in private. But there can be more to managing praise than simply doing it where everyone can see. I like to take it a step further and praise people for making mistakes. Now I don’t mean giving the thumbs up to an employee who drags the team down, perpetually messes up and refuses to learn from mistakes. I’m talking about the kinds of mistakes employees make when they’re empowered to make decisions and rewarded for taking risks that can benefit the company. When you praise an employee for trying something new—even if it failed—you can send the message that you reward innovation. This may help your staff understand that trying new things is low risk and potentially high reward.
3. Tell your story.
Don’t underestimate the power of storytelling. Consider using the struggles you faced in starting your business—the challenges you overcame, the tough competition, the mistakes you made—in a way that relates your history to your employees’ current challenges. When you weave together your narrative with the narratives of your staff, you might provide a model for overcoming difficulties and also write a common story, bringing your staff into the big picture of your company in a way that can make them feel invested in your success.
4. Get people to buy in.
It may be good for you to articulate your goals for your company, but it can be great when you get your employees to define their own goals and tie them to your business. Consider encouraging your staff to see their time spent in your employ, whether it’s brief or long term, as an important part of their journey along their personal road.
Maybe your accounting firm employs a guy who’s an artist at heart. You might see your artist as a short-timer, but if you can encourage him to see his time at the accounting firm as a means of acquiring critical business knowledge, the kind that many artists desperately need, then he may feel more fulfilled and also do his best work for you.
5. Cross train.
Athletes often get it. You’ll see a basketball player take a day off from regular workouts to do yoga. Not because yoga is her primary focus, but because yoga can help an athlete work different muscles and round out her overall physical condition. Likewise, having your employees periodically explore different tasks and skills may keep them sharp and avoid monotony.
6. Celebrate traditions.
In my current business venture, when we land a new member, we crank popular rock-and-roll songs. We play it so loud the neighbors complain and everyone’s heart rate rises. Not only is it a welcome break from the serious business we’re doing, but it’s also a motivator. When you hear employees say they want to hear this type of music all day long, you know you’ve got an inspired staff.
7. Reward success in unique ways.
Want your staff to value more than money? Then consider providing incentives that aren’t just cash. Whether it’s a team outing to a baseball game or a group cooking class, try to look for opportunities to foster a team mentality and reward excellent performance at the same time. Dangling a carrot can be a mighty powerful motivator, so consider moves like handing out aprons the day you announce the cooking class you’ll all be working toward. Give your staff a tangible reminder of what they’re shooting for.
8. Allow for rest.
Pushing your staff too hard might be one of the most counterproductive things you can do. Instead, try to protect your employees’ downtime. Your staff needs time with friends and family—time to live their lives outside your company. If you show no respect for their need to rest, you may be indicating a fundamental disregard for their welfare. Give your staff the time to refresh, and they may come to the office ready to work hard for you.
We tend to be inspired by people who are inspiring. The way you conduct your business and the way you treat your employees and your customers can set the precedent for what you expect from your staff. Bring your employees into the company narrative and set your course for excellence and you may be rewarded with energetic, inspired employees ready to work hard for mutual success.
Read more articles about motivating employees.
A version of this article was originally published on January 29, 2016.