By Perminus Wainaina
It’s that time of the year when employees wait with bated breath for their annual performance incentives such as bonuses, gift vouchers, club memberships and other perks that management uses to motivate staff. As a business owner, the term employee motivation has a bitter-sweet ring to it. On the one hand, you do want your team firing on all engines and staying loyal to your brand. On the other hand, you lose sleep thinking about the massive expenditure involved. However, what if I told you that you could achieve the same levels of staff morale without burning a hole in your company account? It sounds implausible, but the truth is there are things that most employees value even more than a holiday voucher.
Sell Them Your Vision
Most people value being part of a team that is successful and makes a difference in the grand scheme of things. Making your company vision clear to every single employee and giving them a manageable role to play in achieving this vision works wonders. It sparks initiative, innovation and team spirit. Give your employees something meaningful to believe in and strive for and they will be motivated. Successful international brands such as Facebook or Apple have one thing in common- their employees live and breathe the brand. It’s not just a job but something they are proud to be part of.
Empower Them To Succeed
As a recruiter, one of the things I hear often from job candidates is that they long to feel like they are in control of their career. One way to achieve this as a manager is to give them the mandate to make decisions regarding their work, within reason. Also, avoid micromanaging them and give them opportunities to shine such as taking the lead on a project.
Be honest and seek their input when making major decisions that affect them such as a company merger or budget cuts. Most importantly, provide them with the tools to do their work including a safe work environment and up-to-date technology.
Provide Mentorship Opportunities
If money is tight and you can’t afford to pay tuition for courses, you can still ensure your employees enjoy career development through mentorship programs. Do it yourself if you can, or set up a system where more experienced employees interact with fresh graduates. Often, the training goes both ways as seasoned employees learn new skills even as they teach the newbies. For instance, a management trainee can teach their supervisor/mentor how to use business technology to accomplish the same tasks they are being trained for. Practical skills training such as public speaking, time management, personal finances and personal branding are also a welcome incentive in lieu of cash tokens.
Adopt An Open Door Policy
Often, employees feel like it’s them against the system when their concerns and ideas aren’t heard. I often encounter managers who say they simply don’t have time for one-on-one engagements with employees given all they have to juggle. However, my advice is to consider it an investment. The more you are willing to engage them on issues, the less they may feel the need to complain. In fact, chances are they start to comply with policies simply because they were included. Additionally, when employees view you as a friend, they are willing to work that much harder to ensure your company succeeds.
The modern workplace is comprised of a diverse team with varying lifestyle needs. Accommodating some of these unique needs can go a long way in motivating and retaining your best talent. For example, a post-grad student or a young mother may require flexible work hours. A sales team may favor flexible payment structures. Then we have this valuable demographic called ‘millennials’. Research says that they thrive under flexible deadlines and prefer constant feedback on their work as opposed to periodic reviews.
Altering your systems to accommodate such needs can be done in a manner that will not affect your bottom line, yet, will ensure you have a productive and loyal team. One success story I admire in terms of workplace flexibility is Google’s policy that allows all employees to work on passion projects for 20% of their work time. This gives them time to learn and explore, often leading to innovations that benefit the company directly.
At the end of the day, you will find that most employees want to do a good job, and they will, if you create the right conditions for them to do so. So, this season, as you prepare to reward your top performers, consider offering them long term perks that will create more job satisfaction than a fat annual bonus.