In the post-pandemic world of ‘quiet quitting’ and remote/hybrid working, the issue of keeping staff motivated has never been so important for small businesses as it is right now. Hiring new staff takes time and money. Plus, new employees will always need time to get up to speed, so businesses need to do what they can to keep existing staff from leaving in the first place.

One of the best ways to make sure they don’t leave is to keep them motivated, which also helps with their productivity on a day-to-day basis. Whether they’re in the workplace every day or spending some time working from home, how do you ensure motivation stays high?

In this guide, we’ve got some proven tips to help you learn how to motivate staff.

How to motivate staff

One way that might seem obvious to make sure you’re motivating staff is through ensuring they are on a competitive salary, with meaningful benefits and perks. Although this isn’t always possible, especially during a cost-of-living crisis where small businesses are having to carefully watch their own bottom line, amidst rising costs and falling sales.

So, as a business there are some key areas you can control that will improve staff motivation:

Workplace culture

There’s whole industries devoted to telling you how to improve the culture at your workplace, but the simple truth is that if you make your business a nice place to be, your staff will be happier. One aspect of this is improving the physical environment, making sure it’s safe, clean, bright, airy, vibrant and welcoming.

Other ways to improve the culture start at the top with transparency, giving your employees the trust of sharing information with them that keeps them feeling informed and a part of the business.

Feedback and recognition are crucial, so sharing positive feedback from customers and other colleagues helps your staff to feel valued and like the work they are doing is having the impact they want, which will motivate them to keep on working hard.

We’ve talked about workplace culture in terms of physical space, but there’s also the question of the environment when it comes to how colleagues treat each other. Motivation will be negatively affected if the environment is toxic, full of suspicion, in-fighting, competition and gossip.

Fostering a collective and supportive atmosphere is key, and again, this comes from the top. Encouraging teamwork, collective responsibility and stamping out negative behaviours will ensure that the staff who want to work together will be motivated to do so and will be happier coming to work.

What about remote workers?

It is a known fact that employees are motivated by recognition and your remote workers are no exception. So, how do you go about including them when getting everyone in the same place isn’t feasible?

The most important aspect of rewarding and recognising remote employees is keeping them informed. Treat your remote workers as you would treat your in-house employees and take the time to brief them on any employee perks and reward schemes and show that you value their feedback.
Remote workers often feel that promotions are out of their reach as their faces aren’t as fresh in the minds of employers and as such get lost in the crowd but put some time aside to have face to face discussions over skype and show them the path to promotion.

How to motivate staff as a manager

Managers also have important roles to play when it comes to staff motivation, because they are the ones with day-to-day responsibility for interacting with their teams. Motivating staff as a manager means understanding how each team member is motivated and how to get the best results out of them, rather than applying the same tactics across the board.

Micromanagement is one easy way to wipe out an employee’s motivation, because it removes their autonomy, makes them feel that they are not trusted or valued and makes their working day stressful and dispiriting. If you’ve hired the right people to do their jobs, give them the trust to do them.

Leading by example is another way to create the right atmosphere. If you are telling your team to act according to the values of your business but are doing the opposite yourself, this will most likely demotivate them.

‘Growing professionally’ was another key area for how to motivate your staff and as a manager you have the responsibility for giving them room to grow. Working with them on their career path and professional development shows that you value them, as well as giving them the additional skills to benefit your business.

The importance of keeping staff motivated for small businesses

At Dojo, we’ve always understood the importance of keeping our staff motivated and generating an award-winning community culture even through the pandemic when our staff started working from home. 

What are the benefits and why is it so important?

Motivated staff work harder, because they’re passionate about what they do - this inevitably leads to higher levels of productivity. It also encourages them to innovate, especially if they know they will be rewarded for coming up with improvements to your goods or services.

On a day-to-day level, motivated staff will literally show up for you, while demotivated staff will be more likely to call in sick, either because they are struggling with their mental or physical health, or simply because they’re not motivated to come in.

And, of course, motivation affects staff turnover, which is not only a problem because you’ll need to replace them, but staff who leave will often write up negative reviews on websites like Glassdoor, which can put off potential recruits.

How to maintain employee motivation

So, we know that employee motivation plays a key role in the success of any small business but how do you maintain a high level of staff motivation and keep morale high?

Incorporate regular recognition into your company culture

While perks and rewards aren’t as effective as responsibility and trust, incorporating a recognition scheme into your company can give employees a sense of purpose, which in turn can have a positive effect on profits and productivity.

The power of praise and recognition cannot be denied and it’s no secret that positive feedback can lead to increased self esteem but not just any old recognition scheme will get results.

A compliment here or there may have positive effects in the short term but for both the employee and the company to benefit from it, regular recognition must be incorporated.

According to the Society of Human Resource Management employee engagement is said to be improved by 61 percent when employee recognition programs are introduced. After all, a happy employee is an engaged employee.

Focus on psychological health

If your employees are motivated and happy, they are more likely to put in the hours for your company and one way you can ensure employees feel valued is to not only focus on their physical wellbeing but also their mental health too.

Studies show that last year 27 million working days were lost due to work-related illness and workplace injury and that demotivated employees average around 2.17 sick days per month while happy, engaged employees only take 1.25 sick days per month. Employees that feel valued take less time off due to stress related issues and therefore work harder to reach the company’s goals.

The good news is that companies can turn this around simply by effectively recognising employee performance. As a result, more and more companies are taking a holistic approach to health and safety putting a focus on psychological health, as well as the physical safety of an employee.

Get social

How you recognise the achievements of your employees can greatly affect the success of your employee reward program. If you are still sending out the same old certificates as employee awards, it could be time to change your approach.

Recognition and praise are powerful motivators so why not use your company’s social channels to shout employee praise from the rooftops? Giving your top employee of the month recognition on social media or creating a blog post on the company website in their honour is one way to personally thank them for their time and effort.

Real time recognition

One of the downfalls of the age old employee of the month award is that the recognition is not given in a timely manner. Waiting 30 days to recognise your employees’ achievements may not be the way forward.

Instead, have employees work on a points basis where every achievement is recorded and their points can be redeemed against prizes at the end of each month. This will give them the incentive they need to achieve their goals throughout the month.

How to measure employee motivation

Happiness is subjective and affected by numerous factors which makes it rather challenging to measure. So as a small business, how can you tell if your staff motivation techniques are working?

Recognise the signs of demotivated employees

Unexplained absences, abrupt changes in work patterns and antisocial behaviour are all signs that your employees are feeling demotivated. As a small business owner, the responsibility of monitoring the motivation levels of your team falls in your lap and these are just a few of the signs to watch out for.

Ask directly for feedback

Spotting the signs of a demotivated workforce is the first stage of assessing your staff and their motivation levels. Another way to get a gauge on this is to ask your employees directly for feedback. Carrying out a staff motivation survey can give you insight into how your employees are really feeling.

Making this a two-way conversation by inviting their feedback - potentially through regular staff surveys - is another way to ensure they don’t feel excluded from the decisions that affect them. But if you do receive feedback, you need to demonstrate that actions are being taken as a result of it.

Getting this feedback also gives you the chance to measure staff motivation using a tool like employee net promoter score, which will give you a rating from your staff that you can track over time to see what impact you are having on motivation levels.

So, there you have it, a complete guide to motivating staff for small businesses.