Ask your employees what motivates them, and they will probably say “money.” Most managers will agree with this. Our entire business culture is based on the “carrot” idea. Hang a carrot (money, compensation, commission) out before the employee, and they will move forward, right?
Rewards can narrow focus, and crush creation. Some companies have figured this out. Google allows its employees to use 20 percent of their day for free time, and they claim this perk has been the birthplace for some of their most successful products (Gmail!). Wikipedia gives no money for information, yet look at the power it yields. There is something to be said about the relationship between engaging people and productivity.
As a small business owner I struggle with this every day. It is my goal to find my employees’ “why,” or what drives them and makes them tick. It is not always an easy answer, but if you can find it, you can create a happy productive employee who cares about their job and wants to do better.
Here are a few non-reward ways to motivate your team:
Make sure you’re likeable: According to Dale Carnegie’s research team, “80 percent of employees who are dissatisfied with immediate supervisors are disengaged.” If your employee doesn’t like you, I assure you, they’re not doing the best job they can. According to the same study “less than one in four non-management employees is fully engaged.” Apparently, we all need to do better. Fortunately, what we do as a career is extremely engaging and certainly not boring.
You must have a relationship with your employees. This does not mean partying until all hours of the night, but it does mean listening to them. For me, balance is the key. A drink after work once in awhile can be very valuable, but you want to make sure you remain a manager and not become a friend. You’re there to make them better.
Help make them better: Don’t dictate; manage your employees. Coach them. Make them better at what they do. By all means, talk to them. It is amazing how often expectations are not known. A manager complains that the employee isn’t doing something and that very employee may not even know it needs to be done. I admit that this can be an odd experience in a small business. We are not corporate, but we still need to sit down and have a conversation with our team members. Find out what they like and don’t like about the job. Ask them what tools (literally and figuratively) they need to do their job better. You never know what you might find out.
We recently hired a hands-on installer to lead on the “construction” side. He needed to be able to hang a TV anywhere and run a wire any way. This week, we had a last minute opportunity for programming training a few hours away. He came to me asking if he could go (since we were sending another guy), and excitedly I agreed. Do I expect him to take over programming? No, but the more he knows the better. And I’m feeding a desire that he has to learn—fostering his initiative.
CEDIA EXPO is another great way to cultivate employees. Over the years I’ve taken installers on the trip. Nothing else will make our industry seem as shiny and cool as CEDIA. Remember your first time? It’s a bit mind-blowing. Then get them into a few training classes and take them to a few parties. They’ll (hopefully) come back refreshed, excited, and armed with new knowledge to move forward.
Make sure they know their company’s purpose: Does your company have a mission statement? There must be a reason to move forward each day, and you must instill this in your team. Nothing will drive an employee more then a purpose. If they feel they are part of something bigger, then that they are contributing and they’ll be driven to do better.
If your mission statement (or company purpose) is long-winded and filled with big words, then change it. Make sure you reinforce it within your company, whether you’re a company of two or 22 you need to know why you exist. Finding your company’s purpose/mission statement will not only motivate your employees, but it will lead to happier clients and a better bottom line.
Make sure you get rid of the bad apples: There is nothing that de-motivates people like bad apples. Why should they have to abide by the rules and try to do their best when Bob comes in late and doesn’t finish his work? Maybe Bob is your wife’s distant cousin, but you have to let him go. Bad employees can destroy any improvements you’ve made with your team.
Letting someone go is tough (for most of us). Make sure Bob knows he is walking the line (let your expectations be known), give him a timeline to improve, try to coach him, but don’t let him drag down the rest of the establishment. Letting go of bad apples allows the others to thrive.
Keeping your people motivated is a daily task. You need to connect with them on some level to understand what drives them. It is not always an easy task, but hopefully they’ll see you’re making the effort. Everyone who is part of a team wants to do better, and with a little effort you can watch your people soar.
Heather L. Sidorowicz is project manager/designer for Southtown Audio Video in Hamburg, NY.