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The secret to keeping your staff motivated

Hiring the ‘best’ staff and maintaining motivation can be a significant challenge. DAVID BROWN details a bulletproof system for getting the process right.

For most business owners hiring new staff will appear well down on the list of their favourite things to do.

We’ve all heard the phrase “our staff are our greatest asset.” The difference in business performance between a strong staff culture and one that struggles to maintain enthusiasm is thousands of dollars per year.

Of course, hiring is just the first step of the process. Once staff are employed, we, as business owners, need to make sure we set procedures which aid them to perform their best. 

This comes back to routinely keeping your staff motivated as the benefits of inspired employees have a limited shelf life.

Ensuring your staff are motivated and committing their best can feel like a full-time job. Here are some suggestions on the most effective way to ensure staff are enjoying the job and functioning as effectively as possible.

Motivational tools

• Have a work-friendly environment: Companies such as Google and Facebook have spent a fortune creating employee-friendly zones with gaming and relaxing areas and free lunch cafeterias.

Although this is beyond the scope of most businesses, signalling to your staff that their well-being is valued and considered important is a good step along the process.

“As the old saying goes, ‘that which is rewarded gets repeated.’ It may never be truer in retail than anywhere else.”

• Recognise their efforts: It’s easy to criticise when things go wrong and ignore the things that are going right.

As the old saying goes, “that which is rewarded gets repeated.” It may never be truer in retail than anywhere else. Acknowledging good performance, both privately and in public, will be greatly appreciated and will spur on your employees to repeat the process.

• Consider financial incentives: A pat on the back can be great however sometimes employees like to see something more tangible for their efforts.

Individual bonuses or team financial rewards can go a long way to helping with this process.

• Encourage competition: This can be effective within the workplace as well as between workplaces.

Are there other stores in your area you could be running a competition with? A monthly challenge for the best sales between stores can create a strong camaraderie amongst the staff.

• Have a clear vision: Your employees need to know the company has goals and objectives otherwise, every day can feel like Groundhog Day.

People respond to those with vision. Our greatest leaders have always been able to inspire others through the strength of their vision.

• Offer a career path: This can be challenging within a small business, however employees like to see the opportunity for progress and advancement. Offering the potential to advance can help motivate staff to grow and strive.

• Back your staff: The customer is always right and must be respected, however; don’t hesitate to back a staff member when a customer is being rude or unreasonable.

Employees will respect an owner or manager more if they know you have their back.

• Encourage ideas: All employees want to feel they are being heard.

Give staff the opportunity to be involved in the business processes. Provide a forum where they can provide input and let them know their ideas are being listened to.

• Keep everyone informed: Do all members of staff know what’s going on with the business?

Few things bother customers more than visiting a store because of a marketing campaign and promotion, only to encounter a staff member that is unaware of the promotion.

Use regular meetings to keep all members of staff in the loop and be willing to share business information with them at a level you feel comfortable with.

• Build a team culture: All for one and one for all. You will always have your star performers and your laggers, however; it’s important that you treat them all as a team and give them the chance to work together to achieve the business objectives.

Most people want to work within a team environment and will respond best under these circumstances.

Meetings may bring you down

Ask any employee, regardless of industry, the greatest frustration in their job and chances are ‘time-wasting meetings’ will often feature in the first three to four answers.

Meetings have become an increasing burden on the working environment over the past few decades, with their number increasing substantially since the 1960s.

According to market research from Zippia, the average worker spends at least three hours - almost half a day - in meetings each week.

One positive factor with retail is that meetings tend to be brief as there is a direct need for staff to be interacting with customers, and time in a large staff meeting is time away from the sales floor.

In fact, recently I’ve noticed that in many stores there is a tendency to hold few if any staff meetings at all. This is just as much of a problem as hosting meetings that go for too long, as it can result in employees feeling uninformed and unable to contribute input to the business goals and objectives.

Finding a balance between the two extremes can be a challenge for any manager.

Quality interactions

Well-run meetings can keep staff in the loop, provide them with a sense of belonging and involvement, and build stronger communication across your whole team.

Poorly run meetings waste time and lead to frustration for all involved, demoralising and destroying the culture of the company in the process.

To advance your meetings more effectively I’ve prepared a list of vital ‘do’s’ that will ensure you get the maximum benefit with the minimum downside.

• Start and finish on time: A lack of punctuality is one of the biggest frustrations with meetings. Ensure that you begin when you say you will and that everyone is on time. Feel free to begin even if everyone isn’t there. Finish at the allotted time or sooner if possible.

• Keep it brief: Attention spans are limited, and restlessness will increase if the meeting drags on. There is little reward to be won by hosting meetings with disengaged staff and time is money so use it wisely.

• Follow a formula: Employees value certainty rather than surprises. Having a set agenda will ensure everyone is mentally prepared to get the most out of the interaction.

• Required outcome: Meetings must never be performed without purpose. Know what you expect from the meeting and ensure that the outcome or goal has been achieved when everyone prepares to leave.

• Everyone has a say: Communication is a two-way street, and all quality business leaders need to give others a chance to speak up.

Go around the room soliciting feedback from everyone as even the quietest voices have an opinion. This will help maintain concentration levels as fewer minds will wander when they could be called upon at any moment.

• Measure: Ask yourself ‘are these staff meetings working?’ Get your employees to provide you with feedback on the benefit of the meetings and how they can be improved. Measure the outcomes against what you are hoping to achieve.

• Reward outcomes: Aligning staff goals with store goals can be a highly effective tool. Provide rewards and incentives to ensure your outcomes are reached and encourage stronger participation in your objectives.

• Don’t get side-tracked: Although staff participation is important, ensure you don’t get distracted by other issues that can derail the meeting. If it’s a major point that is dragging the attention of all participants away from the desired outcome of the meeting, delegate a time to discuss the issue in more detail at a separate time.

• Follow up: It’s important the core points of the meeting are relayed to those who were absent. This is especially important if the meeting is held during work hours, and you need staff to deal with customers while the meeting is being held.

Ensure there are good notes kept and staff who can’t attend are briefed on the discussion and outcomes. Retail environments can be challenging for holding meetings, however this doesn’t detract from their effectiveness as communication tools.

Horses for courses

Of course, all staff are individuals and how much you need to apply each of these strategies to different people will depend on their personalities and character.

There is no single solution that will work for all people all the time. An effective plan to implement each of these steps as required will lead to happier employees and a healthier business.

David Brown

Contributor • Retail Edge Consultants

David Brown is co-founder and business mentor with Retail Edge Consultants. Learn more:

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