Your small business is more likely to succeed if the employees are properly motivated. Some of the strategies you can use to improve employee morale in a small business setting include:
1. Awarding regular bonuses
The objective here is to make the employees feel that they actually have some real stake in the business. Thus, for instance, when the business makes a decent profit within a given month, you can see to it that some of the money actually goes to the employees in the form of bonuses. The idea here is to get the employees to realize that they have something to gain if the business performs well. This will in turn almost certainly push them to do their very best in their respective tasks. They would do so knowing that if they perform well (and the business thereafter turns a profit), they will get a share of the profits in the form of bonuses. The most important thing here is to get the employees to see the link between the business’ performance and them getting bonuses. So if the business performs well, they get bonuses. When the business doesn’t perform well, they don’t get bonuses. It is Pavlovian conditioning. Once the employees see the connection between the business’ performance and them getting bonuses, they will start doing everything they can to ensure that the business performs well. In other words, their day to day morale will have been raised.
2. Giving regular pay raises
The cost of living keeps on going up annually. To keep up with it, you need to ensure that you are giving your employees regular pay raises. You need to avoid falling into a situation where the employees have to ask for (and possibly even agitate for) the pay raises. When you give regular pay raises to your employees, the message you send to them is that you care for them. (Conversely, if you are unable to pay livable wages to your employees — in spite of your business being profitable — the inference they are likely to draw is that you don’t care for them). That is how the human mind works, unfortunately. If the employees get the impression that you care for them, they are in turn likely to care about your business and ensure that they do their very best in their respective roles. Conversely, if the employees get the impression that you don’t care for them, they are in turn unlikely to care about your business. They would be more inclined to do the bare minimum necessary for them to keep their jobs, while looking for greener pastures elsewhere. Thus, regular pay raises can be very effective at sending the message that you care about your employees, which would in turn raise their morale greatly.
3. Offering decent benefits packages
The objective here is to further demonstrate to the employees that you care for them and for their welfare. If, for instance, you offer decent medical benefits to your employees, the impression you give to them is that you care about their physical well-being. The message is likely to be further amplified when you offer some sort of workman’s insurance to your employees (assuring them of compensation, should they suffer workplace accidents). Even where you are under no legal obligation to offer these sorts of ‘advanced’ perks to your employees, you should still try to offer them. The idea is not just to meet the legal requirements for you to offer these benefits to your employees (where such requirements are in place).Instead it is, more importantly, to also demonstrate to them that you actually care about them. Even where you are trying to meet some sort of employee benefits legal requirement, you should nonetheless make it clear to the employees that you are offering them the various benefits because you care for them. Offering decent benefits packages will also help keep your employees’ minds focused on their work. For instance, employees are unlikely to focus their minds fully on their work if they know that they would be on their own should they suffer workplace accidents. Similarly, employees are unlikely to focus their minds fully on their work if they know that they would have to meet medical expenses out of pocket were they (or their family members) to get ill. Thus offering proper employee benefits packages can go a long way towards raising their morale.
4. Genuinely listening to the employees’ concerns
Employee morale tends to plummet once they get the impression that their concerns are not being listened to. You therefore need to set up a mechanism through which any employee concerns that arise within your small business are promptly brought to your attention. And once the employee concerns come to your attention, you need to first of all show that you genuinely understand them. Just listening properly to the employee concerns – even if you are unable to resolve all of them – will go a long way towards maintaining the employee morale. Then, after listening to the employee concerns, you need to do as much as you genuinely can to address the concerns. It is worth keeping in mind that most employees are reasonable people, and the concerns they raise tend to be very genuine. Thus, addressing such concerns shouldn’t – in most cases — be too hard.
5. Recognizing and appreciating good performance
You need to set up some sort of mechanism through which you can assess employee performance. Then if any employee’s performance is truly superb, you need to recognize it and appreciate it. Here, you need to remember that each employee is a separate individual. Thus, each employee whose performance is superb should be individually recognized and appreciated — even if it means doing a hundred or a thousand ‘recognitions’ and ‘appreciations’. Conversely, if an employee’s performance is subpar, you need to find a way of appreciating the little effort put in, while also encouraging him or her to raise it to a decent level. The recognition and appreciation could be oral: just telling the employee in question that you are impressed with how he or she is doing the job. Or just thanking the employee orally. The recognition and appreciation could also be financial – where, for instance, you award bonuses for good performance. You can go a step further, and show recognition/appreciation through promotions. So this would be a scenario where employees who demonstrate good performance regularly are eventually promoted to more prestigious (and better paying) positions within the business. This would serve to improve employee morale — as the employees would realize that the effort they put in is not in vain: that there is someone recognizing and appreciating it.