An employee using a handheld POS device to take payment from his table of customers at a restaurant.

Ways to motivate employees

Saturday, December 05, 2015

Cultivating a work environment to increase job satisfaction at your small business

A recent study reported that only 69% of employees report putting their best effort into their work on a regular basis. Employee engagement has been an issue concerning small business leaders for some time, but particularly over the last few years. A recent poll showed that only 33% of all workers in the United States are highly engaged in the workplace. A lack of engagement and contribution towards best work can cost your company in dollars, lost productivity, team morale, and team building efforts.

Employee engagement and productivity contribute to the overall motivation of team members. Motivation involves the “why” of what we do and what keeps us going. When business leaders can tap into the motivation levels and experiences of their team, they are directly contributing to the company culture of their business. They are perhaps even changing how business could be imagined or completed.

Recognizing that motivation is an important part of the employees experience, this article will outline the benefits of a motivated team and strategies that you can implement and invest into increased employee motivation. This will look different at every company type, however, understanding the benefits and possibilities for how this could look at your company will help begin the process of promoting positive motivation.

What are the benefits of a motivated team?

When employees have incentives to stay motivated, your entire company culture stands to benefit. Motivation can directly impact achievable goals that your organization sets out to work towards. In addition to these large-scale benefits, there are other important benefits worth mentioning that a motivated team can fuse together with your company values.

  • Higher levels of employee engagement. Employees who are motivated to perform directly impact the success of company goals. Employees want to be a part of a shared vision — when they feel they are a part of the vision, they are more likely to continue to contribute. Engagement can be measured in a variety of ways, including attendance, timeliness, workload, project completion, team discussions, and more.
  • Increased productivity. When you build trust in your employees to get their work done, they can engage in approaches or with strategies that make sense for their work style. Moreover, when you can help employees stay motivated with projects or other tasks, they will be more likely to hit milestones and continue to complete good work. The idea of productivity is changing in the workspace; leaders are now seeing that different schedules, pacing, and work styles exist, all of which can impact how a person works and what they need to maintain high levels of productivity.
  • Higher investment in the outcome. The quality of the work completed by motivated employees will improve when they care about the outcome of their contributions. With access to ongoing mentoring and other strategies for motivation, job satisfaction will increase with high caliber work being a motivating factor in and of itself. From here, employees can contribute to identified company goals (both long and short-term) that tracks the experience of achievement in real-time.
  • Better employee retention. Teams that have motivated employees will want to stick with your company longer. The main reason? Employee morale. Motivated employees tend to also have higher levels of employee satisfaction. Thus, the quality of work improves as does the experience of being an employee at your organization. Retention can be cultivated in a variety of simple ways and will be discussed below.

Ten ways to motivate your employees

Below are some strategies to consider when developing a plan to promote higher levels of motivation at your workplace. It should be noted that generating motivation at your company isn’t something that can happen overnight. In fact, you will want to experiment with what motivating factors work best and what aligns with your company culture and values. Every organization looks different, so exploring motivation can be a unique opportunity to assess what it’s like to work at your company, what is working, and what areas might need some tweaking.

  • Prioritize autonomy when possible. Employees benefit when they feel that they have a voice in all parts of business operations. This can include policy making, collaborating to define company values, setting employee schedules, and even determining aspects of remote work options. When employees are included in the process, they will feel more a part of the team and see how they fit within a larger structure.
  • Ensure ongoing employee recognition. It is important that employees feel their hard work is recognized and that there are perks that come with collaboratively working towards company goals. Employee recognition can be informal or formal and structured or unstructured, and can also have multiple sources – whether from their manager, supervisor, or from other co-workers. Recognition is particularly important for remote employees, as they don’t experience the same interactions that on-site employees often do..
  • Acknowledge important milestones in an employee’s life. Whether a birthday, holiday, or an important cultural event, it is motivating for employees to feel celebrated for factors beyond their productivity. Consider a team lunch or something special when these milestones take place.
  • Be a relationship forward leader. No matter how your organization is structured, it is crucial that you lead with relationships first. In doing so, you are prioritizing the human experience of your business — for customers and your team — so that your product or service has a lasting impression. Valuing relationships can include team building activities, an open-door policy, and open conversations about employee needs.
  • Gamify aspects of employee tasks. When you gamify the work environment, you are structuring an environment that rewards employees for producing quality work. Performance can be tracked or measured and then rewarded with monetary rewards or other incentives that are desirable to your team. This offers employees something that drives motivation and creates friendly competition on your team.
  • Ask employees their perspective on goal setting. Your employees carry a great deal of knowledge about the direction of the company and the tasks required in order to accomplish larger visions. When brainstorming goals, consider involving your employees in the goal setting process, whether in small group meetings or in larger company discussions.
  • Encourage leadership at all levels. Companies thrive when there are leaders within every part of the company’s operations. When you delegate leadership roles to your team, they will feel more invested in cultivating the development of other members of the team. As such, everyone will want to work together for a greater good and continue to respond to different types of leaders in different contexts.
  • Invest in long-term professional development of your employees. Whether going back to school, taking an extra class, attending a conference, or participating in a networking event, employees will stay more motivated if they feel that their organization supports them as ongoing learners. With opportunities for growth outside of work, your team members can bring these new skill sets back to the team for implementation and application.
  • Ask your team members what they want. Instead of trying to think too hard about what your employees want to see in the workplace, it can be even more useful to ask them directly. Ask them about what they hope for their job, their role, and their long-term vision for the organization. This way, you have direct access to ideas for change that can help retain them over longer periods of time.
  • Leverage transparency. The more open you are with your team, the less likely there will be any surprises as you move through your workflow. It is important that employees have the space to ask questions, give feedback, and know about the overall direction of the organization. If an employee knows where the company is headed, they have a more tangible way to move through their work, especially knowing how their work can directly impact company success.

Less micromanagement, more motivation

As you begin the process of investing in strategies for motivation, you’ll also begin to experience some of the benefits of a happier workforce. Motivation is necessary for any business size or type, whether a startup company or a business that has been around for many decades. Motivation is a dynamic concept, always shifting and changing within the world of business.

Moreover, you save your own time and energy when you don’t need to micromanage your team; instead, you can trust them to get the job done effectively. This change alone can create a ripple of change at your business, generating a more positive reputation of your brand and instilling commitment, pride, and loyalty to your company.

Next steps

Are you ready to elevate motivation levels at your business? Are you looking for tools and ideas for how to help deliver on what people want within your workforce? Are you ready to motivate employees while still meeting your bottom line?

Heartland is ready to help.

Heartland helps nearly 1,000,000 entrepreneurs make and move money, manage employees and engage customers with human-centered technology solutions that allow them to rise above the daily grind and lead their businesses into a brighter future. Learn more at