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Tips for small business owners to keep their employees motivated

Zig Ziglar, renowned American author and motivational speaker said: You don’t build a business. You build people and people build the business. As a small business owner, the up-keep of staff morale is vital to keep employees motivated so that they can contribute towards building and growing your business.

Employee motivation is based on providing an appropriate blend of rewards such as recognition, remuneration, relationships, security, and challenges of new projects and a sense of doing something worthwhile. Addressing these different aspects of employee motivation, makes employees aware of the opportunities available to them in the business and in the process they feel that they can influence results by their actions and follow their ambition.

Another way to successfully motivate employees is for small business owners provide clarity regarding the goals for the business and what is expected from their employees. The goals set for the company need to be turned into achievable goals for the people working in it. If employees can see how their success contributes to the big picture, they will feel motivated and part of the team.

With this in mind, it is important to give everyone a chance at success. For example, a bookkeeper is more likely to stop debtors taking liberties if they know why this matters so much and are responsible for bringing the figures down.. If employees understand problems, they often come up with solutions themselves.

When it comes to praise and criticism, it is imperative to let employees know when they are doing well and when they are doing badly. Remember, feedback is given to improve performance, provide lessons and build employees’ motivation and confidence in their capabilities.

In order to be clear, business owners should say exactly why they are congratulating an employee or wanting to help them improve. However, it is imperative to avoid getting personal. Describe the negative consequences of an action, rather than criticizing and then encourage the employee to brainstorm how better results could be achieved.

Small business owners should identify which employees have the capacity to learn new skills, and increase the variety of tasks to make the work more stimulating. Giving employees the chance to shoulder more responsibility increases their sense of involvement. This is to avoid losing talented employees due to them being under-utilised, frustrated or bored. In order to know which individual employees are ambitious and which are content to stay in the same jobs ask employees the key question: ‘If you could improve just one thing about your work situation, what would it be?’

The attitude of the business owners towards their employees is key when it comes to motivating employees. Below are additional pointers for small business owners to consider:

1. Treat employees as partners in the business

Keep them informed about business performance and management decisions and ask them for their input on decisions that affect them. Create a good working environment and provide training and resources for their job.

2. Build an atmosphere of trust and teamwork

A company run on defensiveness and fear is an unpleasant place to work. Employees will avoid making decisions in case they are wrong, so accept that mistakes are an inevitable part of the learning process and encourage people to ask for help when problems arise.

3. Keep communication open and honest

Schedule regular appraisals to review progress, problems and plans. Encourage employees to do most of the talking during these sessions, by using open questions like: ‘How well do you feel you are doing?’

4. Take an interest in employees’ lives

Without interfering, be prepared to discuss things your employees are interested in. Listen actively, and be consistent and fair in your approach.

5. Build team spirit with regular briefings

Hold daily or weekly meetings to plan work, establish goals and discuss any special events and deadlines. Share any news and problems and give employees credit for their contributions and achievements.

The importance of motivated and inspired employees is crucial to the success of any business. As such, small business owners should make sure to continue to build on the employee management approach in order to retain great employees and for the business to survive and thrive.

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