Everyone knows that a business is only as good as its workers. It may be a cliché to some, but it’s also one of the golden rules of business success – and an adage that is often forgotten by managers.
The hostile economic climate has only fuelled this situation. Business owners are focusing on sales and keeping the company afloat whilst staff are facing disruptive working patterns and expected to put in even more work. As a result, employee needs are fast falling down the agenda.
Fostering a working environment that drives productivity, celebrates success and supports empowerment is one of the only ways to really give your business a competitive edge. Yet many senior managers make the mistake of thinking that it isn’t possible to achieve this level of success without financial incentives. In fact, the root of the problem lies, not in a lack of finance to reward staff, but a failure to recognise what drives them.
Spend half an hour talking to your team and you will soon realise that financial incentives aren’t always at the top of employees’ wish lists. Some may be motivated by training opportunities; others may favour the introduction of flexi-time working arrangements. Without talking to your staff, you won’t know what drives them. If you don’t know what drives them, they will be more difficult to retain.
People don’t just need reward, they need recognition. Managers tend to forget their staff when times are tough: they fail to congratulate someone for hitting a target or neglect to thank someone for working overtime on that important project. As a result, the conversation comes to a halt and the working environment can become incredibly frustrating.
Counteract this culture by reintroducing the conversation back into the workplace. Sit down with each employee and ask what it is they want from their job. Do it both on a one-to-one basis and a group setting to avoid ‘loud’ employees overshadowing the quieter workers – and appreciate their long term plans.
There are many motivation techniques and initiatives worth considering, especially if you are on a budget. You should already have a good idea of what makes each of your staff energised by now, so consider work-based options such as offering training opportunities, allowing staff to shadow the boss for an afternoon or running team-based competitions to inject some enthusiasm.
Other considerations include introducing employee discounts, arranging a monthly social, ‘dress down’ Fridays, participation in charity events or even buying breakfast on the odd occasion. These subtle changes can make a big difference.
Stick your promises
There is no point arranging a motivation programme if you can’t commit to it long term. As soon as you fail to deliver on your promise, it, and your efforts, will lose all credibility.
This situation can be addressed in two ways: effective planning and delegation. Reward schemes and motivation programmes are designed to acknowledge good work, so make sure they are achievable yet realistic. If you have a staff member who is a strong leader or someone who others respect, gain their support by delegating activities to keep the momentum.
The issue of motivation can sometimes be a difficult topic. An unmotivated team is, typically, the result of a poor leader who has failed to recognise and address the needs of staff. But if you’re a strong manager, you’ll understand the importance of creating a good work environment and its impact on productivity.
So don’t let employee needs go down the agenda. Ensure their dedication is rewarded, and their efforts recognised. Only by doing so will you help your business to prosper and retain your star performers.