Main Content

Back to Blog List

  • 29 July 2014
  • Dr Billy M.

5 easy employee motivation strategies for your small business

A simple gesture to celebrate an employee's personal milestones, such as an engagement, a birthday, or work anniversary, can go a long way in improving employee motivation. Everyone wants to be recognized for their work. There are several ways to go about boosting morale. Some of the most common methods acknowledge professional achievement and performance within the company, rewarding them with benefits both tangible and intangible.

1. Use positive reinforcement

An effective employee motivation strategy is to acknowledge and reward success. The basic premise is that recognition of past successes is a big motivator for future progress. Conversely, not recognizing when an employee goes "above and beyond" can lead to resentment or bitterness.

An effective employee motivation strategy is to acknowledge and reward success.

Reward in a small business setting is typically compensation for those employees who do great work in the form of annual bonuses. By offering monetary incentives, employees know beforehand that there is a quantifiable reward on the line, which nudges them to achieve their goals. However, if you are not in a position to offer substantially higher wages, there are other ways to reward your staff — as long as you recognize employee engagement is central to this goal.

You can recognize employees with other awards, such as certificates, plaques, or gift cards that signify their contribution. Take employees out for company outings, or offer tickets to a game or the theater. Doing this gives your team something to look forward to while managing the daily grind each week. More importantly, emphasize what a great job they are all doing and how much they deserve to be rewarded to create a sense of community within the company.

2. Invest in training

Use a combination of in-house training and outside seminars to improve employee skills and enhance performance in the workplace. Utilize supervisors and employees who show particular strength in certain areas to mentor and train others. This can also involve one-on-one coaching as part of employee development. Outside training can come as a stimulating break for your team — especially when they attend workshops out-of-town or away from the business site. Structure the program such that attendees can recreate the seminar or educate the rest of the team in some other way so that the training is inclusive and transferable.

Training is a winning prospect for all involved. Your employees gain motivation through on-the-job training opportunities while you harness the full value of your employees and foster loyalty and retention.

3. Clearly define career paths

Employees will be highly motivated if they know that potential opportunities lie ahead for them for both personal and professional growth. Have clear methods of promoting suitable and qualified employees to leadership roles. Job titles are typically associated with responsibility and tend to boost people's self-esteem, overall attitude, and morale. This enhances the pride employees feel in belonging to a company, a foundation for continued success. Set attainable career paths within your company, and make it a point to always first consider internal personnel for promotion unless specific circumstances dictate otherwise. Avoid sending the message that there is no one to promote internally whenever you source talent from outside the company.

4. Provide a pleasant work environment

Working conditions are a critical component of employee happiness and largely determine overall productivity. Although it appears to be a strictly cosmetic consideration, a clean, aesthetically pleasing office with fresh paint, wall adornments, and lively plants provides an environment where an employee will feel comfortable. Pay particular attention to ergonomics in the workplace, such as comfortable chairs and ample desktop space and surrounding area. Temperature and air conditioning should be regulated to ensure comfort in the workplace. Allow for a casual dress day, especially if your company routinely requires employees to dress business-formal. If practical, you can even allow employees to bring their pets to work. Pets tend to make people happy by bringing a sense of companionship to the office.

5. Listen and respond to feedback

Remember that even though your employees are resourceful, they may sometimes feel that their knowledge goes unheard or unappreciated. Encourage feedback and act on their suggestions. This has the twofold effect of making your employees feel more motivated while leveraging their feedback to formulate future objectives that improve your business.

Always take measures to invest in opportunities that improve employee morale. However, as you implement the above employee motivation strategies, be clear with expectations so you can plan for specific results without compromising company objectives.

Back to Blog List