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Motivate all of your employees!

Motivate all of your employees!

Wouldn’t it be great if your employees came to work as chipper as the seven dwarves from Snow White every morning? Let’s face it, they were pretty motivated weren’t they? When you’re a small business owner you may feel that there is really nothing you can do to motivate your employees. You don’t have a hierarchy that they can climb and you can’t afford to pay huge salaries or give incremental pay rises.

The thing is there are things you can do to ensure that your employees are happy, and you should certainly aim for this! Remember the formula: happy employees = happy customers = happy business = success = happy you!

Happy employees ensure that they have the right sort of attitude when they’re customer facing. It strikes me that ALDI employees for example, are much happier in their work than those in other leading supermarkets, and I wonder if it’s because ALDI genuinely value their employees whereas some of the others probably don’t care a whole lot.

Research has shown that if a brand or a business has started to see flagging results, it is generally because they’ve lost touch with either their customers, their staff or their distribution channels. With employees, researchers suggest that a pay rise has a temporary effect – people quickly adjust to having the extra money and in any case they believe they deserve it, so it’s not a great motivator. Rewards and loyalty programmes however can span longer timeframes and you can tailor them specifically to your own employees.

So how does motivation work?

It’s easy really. In order to motivate your employees, you need to make them feel excited (or just happy – we are British after all) to come to work every day. They must want to spend time working for YOU and they must like working with each other. Motivation is important because it costs more to replace staff than to keep them. Staff liked to feel needed and respected and keeping them happy means they’ll stay with you for much longer. Knowing how to motivate your employees should be high on your list of priorities as a small business owner.

Have a decent break out area ...

Have a decent break out area …

Improve your environment

We all spend a huge chunk of our time at work so it stands to reason it should be as pleasant as possible. If you’re a small business owner there’s not a huge amount you can do. Hopefully you have a break out area or at least some seating for breaks. It should be clean and fragrant, and if people are sharing a bathroom, make sure that is as nice as possible. If you can control the temperature, do so.

If you can’t provide lots of natural light or position your employees next to windows, then be kind and allow them outside every now and again. This is an important mood enhancer especially in the winter. If you can have benches outside so much the better!

People don't like to feel trapped at work

People don’t like to feel trapped at work

Acknowledge your employees are adults

Your employees should be trusted and given a certain amount of freedom, i.e. not chained to a desk from 9 till 5, not forbidden from nipping out to the chemist – that sort of thing. You KNOW that it’s petty to clock watch and stand over people while they work. They’re grownups. If you trusted them enough to hire them, let them manage their own time. We’ve spoken before about working smarter not harder. Your employees will need to have a giggle or let off steam every now and again and it will make them more productive when they get back to focusing on work.

Review your dress code

How uptight do you need to be? Fair enough if your employees have to be in suits then so be it. If they can be smart casual so much the better. What image works well for your company? If it’s a matter of your employees being distinct from customers, a company t shirt or sweatshirt is a nice idea, and let your employees wear what they want on their bottom half.

Personalise employee space

If your employees feel like work is a home from home they’ll be happier. In employee areas, away from customer sight, you could have a notice board for pictures, postcards, birthday cards etc.

Every thank you counts!

Every thank you counts!

Thank you

I asked people on my Facebook wall what are the best methods to motivate employees and a number of people straight away replied ‘a thank you’. A simple thank you goes a long way and makes people feel valued. Don’t underestimate this – and don’t get tired of saying it. Don’t just write it off – make a thing out of saying, “that was outstanding today, thank you so much!”


No matter how big or small your company is, you should ensure that communication is transparent. I’ve worked in big companies where the bosses say their communication is transparent but in board meetings you understand that employees don’t know the half of it. Of course you’ll keep some information back – but if the business is doing well, if profits are up year on year or month on month, let people know! If you get praise from somewhere, again, let your employees know.

Mmmm afternoon tea!

Mmmm afternoon tea!

Food and drink

Everyone likes a free lunch, and I have often observed how the higher up the pecking order you are, the more likely it is that the business will pay for your lunch. Well, oddly enough, it’s the people on minimum or low wages that need a free lunch more. So a great way to motivate your employees is, if you can afford it, even once a week, is to supply lunch. Bring in sandwiches for everyone. Keep the staff room or area well stocked with free tea, coffee, milk, fruit and cakes. It won’t cost you much and people will appreciate it. Have something new in for afternoon tea every day – maybe mini chocolate bars or fresh doughnuts. It gives people something to look forward to. Maybe order pizza once a month.

Have themed fun days

Have themed fun days

Fun days

Every now and then why not have a charity day. Pick a theme – let’s say ‘superhero’ day. Everyone has to create a superhero for themselves and bring in food. You can raise money on the day from each other (you being the most generous and remember it is tax deductible) and from customers. You could have a ‘blue’ day and everyone would have to dress in blue and bring blue food for example. A rugby world cup day. An Andy Murray day. The possibilities are endless, but they’re also great fun and an easy way to motivate employees.


Always be honest about where you want your business to go, how you see it growing and what work still needs to be done. Try not to humiliate people, but you could generally call out issues that need to be worked on. Always give more positive feedback than negative feedback. You want them to feel good about working for you, not that you’re a miserable old fart!


Silly competitions with rewards is another really excellent way to motivate your employees. Years ago I worked in a small restaurant and the manager promised a free bottle of wine to anyone that could upsell 10 bottles of wine on a particular night. I was charm personified and won my free bottle of wine. You could have a silly contest with a small reward – who can sell 5 pencil sharpeners this morning. It doesn’t have to be serious – it just has to make people smile.

Unexpected time off! Wheee!

Unexpected time off! Wheee!

Paid time off

You’re a small business and you probably can’t afford to do much, but an extra hour or shift off – just because the sun is shining and someone has worked hard is a really lovely thing to do once in a while.

Work as hard as your employees

Your employees will feel more motivated if they see you working as hard as they do. Do all the jobs they do. Show them that everything is important – down to cleaning the kitchen or hovering. All of it keeps your little business ticking over and you’re all in it together.

Build strong relationships

You can be friendly and personable. Say hello in the morning, smile lots during the day, and wish them a good evening at the end of the day. You can know the names of their pets or children or spouses. Maybe you know what their favourite TV programmes are. However, don’t ever get too personal because that way problems lie.

Trips out

The beauty of a small business is that there aren’t too many of you. You can go out together – maybe do a pub quiz. Anything that helps to foster a team spirit has to be a good thing for the efficient running of your business.


If it’s at all possible, cross train your employees. Rather than just working the till, maybe they can learn how to make orders. That kind of thing. A small business always relies on a number of skills, and the more people that can do more things the better!

Pay peanuts ...

Pay peanuts …


Most of my Facebook friends claimed that a thank you and trust go a very long way. They want, “Appreciation for a job well done,” and to be “trusted and praised when a good job is done” and to feel supported, in whatever form they need. However, I have to give a shout out to Rob who told me that “Let’s face it the only thing we work for is money!” so you’d better get your cheque book out too!

Over to you!

So how do you as a small business owner motivate your employees? Do you think it’s important? If you’re an employee what’s the best motivator for you? Have you ever been completely turned off a job because of your boss? Come and chat with us on Facebook or drop us a comment below. We’d love to hear your stories. 🙂

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