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Motivating Employees of Small Businesses

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To motivate means to use available methods or resources to persuade someone to work harder or excel at what he or she does. If successfully done, it is a means of enhancing the success of your overall business.

Accentuate the positive. One of the simplest and least costly methods of motivating employees is to show them recognition for a job well done. This can range from a pat on the back to an Employee of The Month Award to a token gift. Small gestures that recognize the positive accomplishments of an individual can often go a long way. It increases the employee’s sense of self-esteem, and makes him or her feel better about his or her job. The result is usually improved productivity.

The accomplishments of a team or a group should also be rewarded, whether it's for their ongoing work or for a special project. Employee certificates, small bonuses, or even giving the team Friday off, can show them that you have recognized their efforts.

The happy employee. Typically, studies and surveys have shown that the more satisfied the employee is with his or her job, the better he or she will perform. Therefore, to motivate on an ongoing basis, you need to create an environment in which an employee feels involved and enjoys working.

There are various ways of increasing job satisfaction, which include:

  • Providing flexible schedules. Many businesses are allowing employees to work alternative schedules that do not adhere to the traditional 9-to-5 workday. This might include part-time schedules or even job sharing, where two people share one full-time position.
  • Telecommuting. Some jobs can be performed by employees who telecommute from their home computers a few days a week.
  • Regularly scheduled performance reviews, which include positive feedback and let employees know what's expected of them.
  • Encouraging employees to perform various tasks so that their jobs don't become routine or boring.
  • Allowing employees to enhance, improve, and decorate their own workspace.
  • Providing a means of socialization through lunchtime or after-hour activities.
  • Stressing that employees can move up and advance within the organization.
  • An open-door policy, which encourages employees to ask questions or make recommendations.
  • Making donations to charities selected by the employees on behalf of the company.
  • Strong communication is also a key to having and retaining satisfied employees. Make sure that employees know what's expected of them, and also let them know they'll be heard if they voice problems or questions.

    While highly paid motivational speakers may be brought in for pep talks, you will more likely receive better results from sitting down periodically with your employees and asking for feedback. Find out what they like about their jobs, what they dislike, and what they would like to see changed or improved.

    You might start with anonymous employee satisfaction surveys, which may allow employees greater latitude in communicating how they honestly feel about company policies, management, and their jobs. Do employees feel that they need more training to do their jobs efficiently? Do they feel they need better equipment? Would they like more or less supervision? Would flexible hours help employees who have long commutes and/or family responsibilities? These are among the questions you may want to include in such a survey.

    The following are five common reasons why employees become disenchanted or unmotivated:

  • They feel that nobody in a management position will listen to them when they have concerns, problems, suggestions, or complaints.
  • They feel that they're stuck in positions with no potential for advancement.
  • They're bored because the tasks are routine, and they're not encouraged to take on new projects or added responsibilities.
  • They receive only negative feedback.
  • The office environment is sterile and impersonal, and there's no social aspect to the work environment.
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