If you have a business, you've faced this question: How do I keep my employees motivated? Keeping employees happy and motivated can be an elusive goal at times.
To get some ideas on how to motivate employees, leaders of small businesses were interviewed, and two common themes emerged: keep the communication going both ways and know your employees.
It's important to remember that at the end of the day, your employees are people with lives and families, says Molly Buchanen of Buttercup Cheese TNG Inc. of Central Square, N.Y.
"It comes down to treating them how you would want to be treated," she says. "If they do a great job, let them know. If they make a mistake, let them know that they are human and figure out how to prevent it from happening again."
Along with owners Molly and William Buchanen, Buttercup Cheese has three employees and distributes cheese both wholesale and retail in the central New York area. Molly Buchanen says they work alongside their employees, which is a motivator in itself.
"We praise our employees when they do a good job," she says. "For example, when we have a large workload that has to get done and all the orders get fulfilled, we tell them, 'Great job! We couldn't have done it without you.'"
Buttercup Cheese also rewards its workers with year-end bonuses when the company has had a great year. Cultivating feelings of appreciation and respect ultimately contributes to the teamwork that helps a small business thrive.
"Small-business owners and employees all have to work together to succeed," Buchanen says.
Getting to Know You
At Ray's Tire Service Inc. in Douglassville, Pa., Ray and Kim Quinter make the effort to get to know their three employees beyond work duties and praise them for a job well done.
"It's not always easy, but make sure there's an open line of communication," company president Kim Quinter says. Small businesses need to be flexible and responsive if their employees have problems that could affect work. Quinter says the business has allowed employees time off when they needed it most for personal reasons.
"It's important because it helps keep that trust factor," she says. To keep morale up and to reward their employees, Ray's Tire provides lunch each Friday, gives employees turkeys for Thanksgiving and a bonus at Christmas. Quinter said the shop takes their staff and significant others out to dinner during the Christmas season to keep that feeling of camaraderie among the workers.
"That's important with the customers, too ... they can see. I know I personally don't want to go into a place where people are fighting."
Know What Makes Them Tick
At the Animal Hospital of Polaris in Lewis Center, Ohio, managers use a combination of incentives to keep its 35 full- and part-time employees motivated and happy. When new employees start, each is given a personality profile and the facility takes those responses into consideration when managing the staff, says animal hospital owner and veterinarian Dr. Nicole Eaton.
"First and foremost, you need to be grateful for the employees you do have," she says. "You have to know your employees to know what motivates them ... it all depends on what motivates your employees to get things done."
While some workers may like to hear praise for good work in front of co-workers, others may not want to be singled out. The trick is knowing who appreciates what form of recognition, she said. While bonuses have their place, not all employees are motivated simply by money, Eaton said. Especially in the veterinary profession, people are motivated by their love of animals and want to help them.
Eaton tries to do little things for the employees to let them know they're appreciated—like buying coffee for them or being there to listen to concerns after a difficult day at work.
Build a Team
At SlideRocket in San Francisco, the company created a charitable trust, and, when it was acquired in 2011, the funds from that trust went to charities—chosen by employees.
"The SlideRocket Foundation was very important to the employees and demonstrated we are a different type of company," says SlideRocket COO JJ Fretag. The business presentation company also established a clear mission statement and its business goals support the mission statement—which in turn was communicated to employees.
"We're extremely transparent and review the mission statement and report progress against goals at monthly meetings," he said. The staff also holds regular team-building activities such as group lunches, kickball, secret Santa and offsite social gatherings each quarter including barbecues and karaoke.
"Very important to our culture is taking the opportunity to step away from the business and engage in team building activities and social events to help build a team as opposed to a group of employees," Fretag said. Hiring employees who believe in the company's mission and product also goes a long way to motivating staffs.
"The executives need to bring their best attitude to work every day. It is contagious," he said. "A bad attitude is contagious as well."Linda is an award-winning journalist with more than more than 22 years' experience as a reporter, editor and blogger. Linda blogs via Contently.com.
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