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Small Business Tips

How to motivate employees at your small business

Manasa Reddigari

The lifeblood of every small business is its employees. Here are some practical tips on how to motivate employees to do their best work.

Set attainable goals

Setting unachievable goals is a surefire way to demotivate employees. This is why setting attainable goals is such a key component of the S.M.A.R.T goal-setting method.

Set attainable goals. You should also give employees the time resources and knowledge they need to achieve them.

Let's say you need to deplete old inventory from your store. Instead of setting a lofty goal for a sales employee to sell out a given product, set a target for him to sell 20, 50 or 100 units first.

Reward your employees for achieving smaller goals, then gradually increase the target until the larger goal is met.

Express gratitude

Sixty-nine percent of employees claim they would work harder if employers appreciate their efforts. You can motive employees by simply expressing gratitude.

A simple "thank you" can go a long way in motivating employees. It also signals to employees that you don't take their time or expertise for granted.

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Reward stellar performance

Most small business don't have the financial resources to offer the large-scale performance incentive programs offered by today's top corporations. But they can still reward employees on a smaller scale.

One way to implement an incentive system is to offer employees pay raises, bonuses, gift cards or vacation days for stellar performance. These actions show your employees that their efforts have not gone unnoticed. It also encourages other employees the pursue the same quest for exceptionalism at work.

Create a feedback loop

Stand by the water cooler at any workplace, and you will probably hear a host of employee complaints that never make it to the business owner. Employees do not expect perfection, but they do expect their concerns to be heard.

As a business owner, you have the power to create a feedback loop so that employee concerns are addressed. The feedback loop could take the form of an online feedback system or weekly or monthly meetings with the whole business staff present.

Once you become aware of a problem, mobilize your staff to make meaningful improvements that address them.

Promote high-performing employees

High-performing employees become demotivated if they cannot ascend to the next rung of their career ladder at the small business. Small businesses naturally have flatter organizational hierarchies than corporations.

But that doesn't mean that a stellar employee should remain stagnant in a job when he or she aspires to take on more challenging work. If you have an employee that feels restless in his role, strive to promote him or create a new role for him or her in which has more responsibility.

If you can't create a new role, allow him to explore a new area of the business or delegate some of your own responsibilities to him. These actions show the employee that you believe in his abilities and view him as an instrumental member of the business.

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