Top tips for staff motivation in a small business

Summer is in sight, but maintaining staff morale and motivation can still be a challenge when it comes to leading an exhausted workforce. Over

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Summer is in sight, but maintaining staff morale and motivation can still be a challenge when it comes to leading an exhausted workforce. Overall, the current cohort was under tremendous pressure on both personal and professional spheres, which were transferred as hybrid work practices matured.

For businesses, this time of year could mean people starting to get itchy feet and move to a different role elsewhere – this is especially true following the events of the pandemic so far.

If you keep that in mind, this is a good time to take a look at how we approach staff motivation. Inspiring and motivating teams are not something that all small business owners and management own; it may not always come naturally. But these skills are what give you an edge as a leader.

> See also: How to improve employee motivation in the workplace

When we think of motivation, old-school thinking focuses on salary and benefits – meeting an employee’s basic needs, the primary reason they come to work in the first place. But staff motivation goes deeper than that. Job dissatisfaction can cause such pervasive damage to a person’s general well-being that no number of financial incentives can patch the wound. That’s why transactional benefits are simply not enough to maintain and nurture a happy, productive environment.

It helps to think about team motivation by breaking it down into three essential components:

  • Purpose – the “why”, the reason that drives and gives meaning to everyday activities, which contributes to a larger cause
  • Mastery – hone skills and sharpen knowledge to become better at something that matters
  • Autonomy – the right or condition of self-government, the power to direct our own lives

> See also: Why a sense of purpose is more important than money when it comes to motivation

Top tips for staff motivation in a small business

# 1 – Give credit where it is due

People respond well to recognition, which can come in many forms. It’s easy to overlook, but it’s very important to say thank you in an informal way. Avoid any announcements that you are rolling out a new recognition policy, as this would appear to be unauthentic.

# 2 – Lead through coaching

We have a natural aversion to being told what to do, it’s human. Next time, when you need something, try asking in a way that gives someone more room for decision-making and autonomy. Translate “I Want You to Do It That Way” into “How Will We Get It Done? what options do we have? ” and you give someone the opportunity to provide input. By doing so, you show that you value their opinion, which gives them a degree of accountability for the outcome of the task, which is more motivating than simply following instructions. It also helps them understand the task and allows them to come up with their own solutions, which may be better than yours. # 3 –

# 3 – Be generous with praise

There is nothing worse than feeling your hard work go unnoticed. Praising employees generously is easy, costs nothing and goes a long way. Showing appreciation for good work requires careful supervision, so being aware of daily small victories and celebrating them where possible is a great way to show appreciation. Make it a habit to say thank you regularly.

# 4 – Avoid direct correction and criticism

Hard feedback is extremely demotivating. Try an indirect approach when giving people feedback to help them learn from mistakes and work on how to do it better in the future. This is not to say mistakes should be swept under the rug, but it is also important to read the room and decide whether or not blunt public feedback will go down well. Some people have thicker skin than others, some are more sensitive to professional criticism. It is important to tailor your approach to each team member. It is not empowering or motivating that your boss publicly shames you for a mistake you made.

# 5 – Take a moment to celebrate the victories

Group activities to recognize important milestones are a must. Coming together strengthens a sense of purpose and leads to recognition of everyone’s hard work.

Navigate the highs and lows together – In a business things will go well and it will not go so well either. When it’s good, say so. And when it’s bad, make sure you’re honest about it too. Being authentic and honest with the people you work with, as a leader, shows that you trust and respect them. Keeping everyone engaged throughout the business journey is much easier if you are transparent about how things are going.

These tips are based on the knowledge that employees are people, and each person has individual needs and motivators at work. Showing commitment to them through the way you lead and treat them will help foster a highly engaged workforce. It sounds basic, but you would be surprised at how many businesses slip into bad habits and assume that people are driven solely by a paycheck. The reality of human motivation is more complex than that. Bringing people into your vision and motivating them to join you as you grow the business is the driving force behind making your long-term goals a reality.

Rachel King is the UK General Manager of HR consulting firm Breathe

Further reading

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