Are your employees underperforming? There’s a good chance your staff has been doing the same jobs, with the same salaries, for the past four or five years—and they’re not seeing much hope of change (or finding a new job) in the near future. So before their productivity tanks any more, you need to motivate them. Here are some ideas.
1. Restructure jobs. As a small-business owner, you have more flexibility than most employers to design jobs that fit your employees. If someone has a talent that isn’t being used, offer him or her the chance to work on something new that uses that skill. Job-sharing and cross-training are other ways to keep work fresh day to day, while also benefiting your business.
2. Focus on relationships. When duties and salary are the same-old, same-old, relationships with co-workers can make or break the job experience. Ensure your workplace is a fun place to be. Do things that build team camaraderie without feeling forced, whether that’s going out to lunch together, having potlucks, Friday happy hours or Wednesday-night bowling.
3. Make it meaningful. When employees feel what they do doesn’t matter, interacting with the end users of your product or service can make all the difference. For instance, I spend most of my time behind a computer writing about small businesses, so actually getting out and meeting small-business owners reenergizes me. Take your team to conferences, events and situations where they can meet the people your business helps.
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4. Set goals and celebrate them. It’s human nature that we all enjoy a challenge. Celebrate your victories, both large and small. It doesn’t have to be elaborate or expensive, but it’s important to acknowledge the wins.
5. Treat them like adults. Autonomy at work is a big motivator for most people—employees chafe at being treated like kids. Trust your employees; tell them what they need to do, then give them the freedom to decide how they’ll do it. You may be surprised at how much better the outcome is when you stop micromanaging.
6. Offer regular recognition. A study called The Carrot Principle followed nearly 200,000 people for 10 years and found that the single most common thing the best managers did was regularly offer recognition to their employees. Don’t create a spectacle; just acknowledging someone’s work verbally, with an email or with a note. The key is to do it frequently—not just at your annual Christmas party or review time.
7. Tie rewards to results. If you can’t afford raises, consider performance-based bonuses or profit-sharing plans where employees are rewarded financially when they bring additional revenues to the company. You won’t have to shell out additional cash unless it’s there to be given.
8. Think small, but creative. Make the most of your limited budget with small rewards that show your understanding of each person. One employee might love to get a gift card for a mani-pedi at a local nail salon, while another might be thrilled with two tickets to check out the local baseball team. The fact that you chose a reward tailored to them is what makes it special.
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9. Share the (lack of) wealth. If your employees’ salaries have stayed the same for five years while you’re flaunting a new BMW every year, you can hardly blame them for being bitter. Enjoy the rewards of your business, but don’t flaunt them.
10. Nip negativity in the bud. No matter what you do, you may have some employees who downplay or badmouth it. When employees are feeling stagnant, resentment and negativity easily spread. Be aware of what employees are saying and, if someone is sending out bad vibes, don’t delay in calling them on it. Don’t sugarcoat reality, but make sure they know what you are doing to make your business a great place to work.
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