By Brad Smith
If imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, why not imitate Fortune’s “100 Best Companies to Work For”? Leaders of smaller companies may think they can’t duplicate what companies with deeper pockets are doing to motivate employees, but they’re wrong.
In his book, Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us, Daniel Pink suggests there are three primary motivators of human behavior:
1. Purpose (“I’m attached to something bigger than me”).
2. Autonomy (“I have the ability to do it myself”).
3. Mastery (“I have the ability to learn and grow”).
With these motivators in mind, here are 10 suggestions for leaders who want to create, recruit, and retain happy, motivated, high-performing employees:
- Promote philanthropy. Encourage your employees to donate a few hours each month to their favorite charity. Better yet, find a cause that fits your business and allow employees to donate their time during the work week. Promote the charity to your employees and customers to highlight good will and to demonstrate that your company is dedicated to a higher purpose.
- Promote employee wellness. Offer group discounts for gym memberships. Encourage teams to hold meetings and tie them to a healthy activity. Allow employees to make doctor appointments during office hours. Your employees will appreciate your emphasis on good health and investment in them as individuals.
- Emphasize customer care. Good work habits are learned from the top down. Do you go the extra mile? Use customer service ratings or surveys to track individual employee contributions toward customer satisfaction and loyalty. Post the results on a “leaderboard.” This is a great way to encourage employees to focus on great customer service and to become invested in the company’s mission and goals.
- Use incentives and employee benefits to recruit top talent. If large salaries aren’t an option for your company, provide recognition in other ways by building an incentive plan that works within your budget. It could be as basic as taking a high-performing employee to lunch. If someone is doing a great, let him or her know. Write personal notes to employees who go above and beyond. Recognition breeds loyalty and loyal employees translate to loyal customers.
- Consider giving employees personal time. We often can’t avoid long work hours. However if there is a traditional slower period in your business, give your employees some extra personal time to recharge. A common practice in high-tech firms is to allow employees a half-day a month to “work on anything they want” related to the business. This level of autonomy will help motivate your workforce while encouraging creativity and innovation. Can you offer half-day Fridays throughout the summer months? Or perhaps add an extra paid holiday to the schedule?
- Encourage mentoring. Offer to mentor an employee one-on-one to help her rise to the next level in her career and encourage others to become mentors. Point out ways employees can improve their skills, develop their communication skills, and aim for a higher position at your company. Demonstrating that you have a genuine personal interest and commitment to your employees will encourage them to do the same for each other—and your customers.
- Encourage collaboration. One way to do this is to offer open workspaces. Talented younger workers welcome communal work environments where they can share information and camaraderie. Be open to new ideas and foster open communication. If titles are creating an issue, do what some of top 100 companies do: don’t put titles on business cards. Or take a tip from Zappos and abolish titles altogether, focusing on the work that needs to be done instead of the organizational hierarchy.
- Surprise and delight your best employees. As a customer experience executive, I especially love what Kimpton Hotels and Restaurants does for employees who offer exceptional customer service. They surprise employees who go the extra mile with bonuses, extra days off, or fun excursions.
- Be a visionary. A visionary is aware of trends, but doesn’t always follow them. Share your plans for the future and your enthusiasm for growth and long-term business goals with your employees. Doing so will provide an exciting roadmap for your staff and help them feel invested in the business. Ultimately, it could also help you get there faster, as nothing motivates people like a Big Hairy Audacious Goal (BHAG).
- Be an inspirational leader. Share inspirational quotes and personal anecdotes that illustrate your integrity as a leader. In so doing you will inspire your employees to achieve their own personal goals while earning their trust in your leadership abilities. They will become more engaged in their work and more motivated to help achieve business goals.
You can learn more about employee engagement and motivation at these AMA seminars:
Successfully Managing People
Leading with Emotional Intelligence
About the Author(s)
Brad Smith is executive vice president of customer experience at Sage North America (http://na.sage.com/us). Prior to joining Sage, he was the vice president of customer experience with Yahoo! He is on the board of the Consortium for Service Innovation.