Some Cost Free Ways to Motivate Employees (Money Isn’t Everything)

You’re a business owner with employees. How often have you said to yourself, “Why can’t they act like me?” or “If I could just get new employees, everything would be better.”

You’re not alone. No matter how much you increase benefits and salaries, employees still don’t seem to be as motivated as owners.

There are ways to change this, and many of the ideas are cost-free. Just like dieting – simple, but not easy – motivating employees means investing time and energy into improving employee communication. Sincerely listening, caring about the person as an individual, investing time in meaningful two-way communication, and treating the other person as a valuable asset will get you amazing results.

If, however, this sounds as painful to you as dental surgery, stop reading now. Nothing changes if nothing changes!

On the other hand, let’s assume you’re willing to invest the time and energy into building win-win relationships with your employees. You’ll be delighted by the miraculous transformation in many workers. And an added bonus is that some of your employees will gladly take on more responsibility.

If you see this as a quick fix, don’t bother to begin the process. Starting and stopping actually makes things worse. Commitment to new, trust-building behavior is the key to success. Assuming you are committed, a highly effective five-step strategy is outlined below:

1. Conduct confidential interviews with each employee to ask them questions such as:

  • If you were the owner, what changes would you implement?
  • What obstacles/challenges prevent you from doing your job?
  • What training or tools do you need to be more valuable to the company?
  • What are your hopes, dreams, and fears regarding working here?

Employees are more likely to open up to someone they trust. So you’ll likely need an impartial insider or an objective third party to get the most honest answers.

Good ideas abound. For example, you might discover that employees need a class in blueprint reading or would benefit from a visit with the salesperson to see how the customer uses your product. If you don’t ask, you won’t know how to help your people help you succeed.

2. Ask each employee to take a communication/behavior style self-test to find out what needs motivate their behavior. The test results quickly identify strengths and weaknesses each employee brings to the job.

If, for example, you have a supporter/amiable type doing the chief financial officer’s job, that might not be a good match. Ideally, you’d want an analyzer in this position. If your sales manager is a strong controller or driver, he might alienate your sales people, who are more likely to be promoter/expressive types. This information can help you coach employees to improve performance.

3. Interview all employees to find out their top three motivators. Nationwide, the nine most common motivators are: interesting work; full appreciation for work done; feeling “in on things”; job security; good wages; promotions and growth opportunities; good working conditions; personal loyalty to workers; and tactful disciplining and sympathetic help with current problems.

Typically, owners and managers think that money is the primary motivator. It’s not. Assuming that wages are fair, employees will only grumble about the wages if their other needs are not being met. If they don’t think you care about them, they can’t trust you to be honest with them, or you aren’t willing to listen to their ideas, they’ll complain about most anything.

4. Conduct a company-wide meeting/workshop to share the findings, teach employees how to use the communication/behavior styles information to improve relationships with each other, and announce action steps that address their most logical recommendations. A meeting like this provides an opportunity to communicate with each other and shows employees that “We heard you, you’re important, and we value your opinion.”

5. Create a vision for the company that can be communicated easily and clearly to all of your stakeholders — employees, suppliers, customers, and others who have a vested interest in your company’s success. If you want everyone inside the company “rowing in the same direction,” they all need to know where you’re headed and to see the value of going there.

There are many other cost-free ideas to motivate your employees. As I said earlier, like dieting, they’re simple but not easy. They all take time, energy, and a commitment to consistent win-win behavior. Companies that make the commitment find that morale increases, turnover declines, and customer satisfaction improves – as do profits.

by Susan Bellows

Reprinted with permission. All rights reserved. Mass High Tech 1999

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