There’s something zombie-like about unmotivated employees. They walk around with a glazed look in their eyes. They zone out during meetings, as if they’re thinking about their next feast on human flesh. When 5 p.m. rolls around, they come to “life” and wander out into the streets, leaving others to wonder whether they’ll be back at work the next day.
Sound like anyone in your office? If so, your employees are eating into your profits: Bad morale typically leads to low productivity and high turnover, which are real costs to the business. Combating the problem is an ongoing challenge, particularly for companies that lack the budget for bonuses and salary increases. Fortunately, small-business owners can take other actions to motivate employees
and turn them into hard-working, dedicated individuals.
Here are a few tips for turning your zombies into productive staff members:
Be a Leader
People find motivation when a leader provides it. This means sharing your vision for the business, both short- and long-term, so employees see where they fit in. The more people know, the more invested they are.
Give employees the information and resources they need to succeed. Invite their feedback about upcoming decisions and new projects. This makes people feel their opinions are welcome and encourages them to offer more. They’ll also be more likely to come up with ideas about how to build the business. (Remember: Your employees are experts in what your customers want.)
Keep a close eye on your own behavior, too. Are you as focused and upbeat as you could be? The people who work for you take their cues from you, the boss. If you work to create a positive work environment, people will respond favorably.
Acknowledge Hard Work
We all want to be acknowledged for our hard work. Just stopping by an employee’s desk to thank her for her contributions can be a great motivation tool. Doing the same in a public venue has even greater value. People who feel appreciated work harder — it’s a fact of life and business.
Ask your staff about their career goals. Then offer training courses that help them develop the skills and knowledge they seek. (Many online programs are free or inexpensive.) This sends the message that you’re truly interested in helping them to realize their potential.
Offer Flexible Hours
Employees locked into a rigid 40-hour (or more) workweek can easily become overwhelmed and unproductive. Stick to sensible office hours, understanding that we all have families and other personal obligations. If working overtime is an occasional necessity, acknowledge employees’ efforts by offering time off on another day.
Does your business provide a telecommuting option? Employees who save time and money by not having to drive back and forth to work each day will appreciate your flexibility. (This may also reduce your overhead costs by decreasing the amount of supplies, office space, and energy needed.)
Many employee motivation strategies simply involve changing the way you operate your business, not handing out salary increases you can’t afford. The payoff in having a workforce of highly motivated employees is huge.
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