Six ways to keep staff motivation and morale high in your small business

Job satisfaction will lead to happy clients and that means growth for your company, argues Darren Craig.

Often one of the major motivating factors for better performance is higher pay. But not all small businesses can afford to hand out regular bonuses and pay rises. However, almost everyone will respond well to praise, recognition and alternative rewards.

The equation is simple; create a working environment where happy employees can flourish, because job satisfaction will lead to happy clients and that means growth for your company.

So, how can you keep staff morale and motivation high within your small business?

Be transparent and involve your team

Recent research found that employees are more motivated at work when they feel valued and involved. As a small business owner, you’re in a great position to be very transparent and include your staff in weekly catch-up meetings. These might involve the team reporting back on successes and learnings from the past week, what they’re working on next and any other feedback. You can also use this time to provide your team with business and HR updates. By understanding the company’s activity and progress, employees will feel their opinion and hard work is being acknowledged and appreciated, which will ensure that they feel motivated and committed to the business.

Flexible working

Flexible working opportunities can benefit everyone; employees, employers and therefore business. In 2014, the right to request flexible working was extended to all employees, but why wait until your staff request it? Why not offer flexible working hours and encourage your team to work away from their desk every so often? This could be an afternoon at an industry conference or event, or even just arranging a meeting at a local café rather than in the meeting room. This change of environment and increase in freedom will not only boost motivation levels, but also allow staff to feel like they are trusted to work away from your watchful eye!

Team activities

As a small business, you’re spending 37+ hours per week with the same small group of people, but how well do you know each other away from the office? Keeping professional and personal boundaries in mind, socialising with colleagues away from your office environment can help improve staff happiness by creating opportunities for team-bonding while at work. Research has found that teams that eat together, perform better together, so why not enjoy a monthly team lunch outing together? Author of the research, Kevin Kniffin, said: “Eating together is a more intimate act than looking over an Excel spreadsheet together. That intimacy spills back over into work.” A good lunch and a hard working team? It’s a win win situation.

Ending the week on a high

Employees that have fun at work are more likely to experience higher levels of psychological well-being than those who don’t. While it’s likely to take more than simply a fun Friday afternoon to ensure employees consistently have high morale at work, it could be beneficial and profitable to organise something on a Friday for staff to work towards and look forward to throughout the week. If your usual dress code is smart and formal, you could allow staff to dress down on a Friday or create a baking rota where employees take it in turn to bake (or buy!) tasty treats for the team to enjoy.

Financial rewards

As a small business, you might not be in a financial position to be able to offer a pay rise to employees, but you might be able to offer an annual bonus. Christmas is a time of giving, and you can follow this through in your small business; take a fair percentage of profit and divide it between employees over the festive period. If you aren’t able to give an annual bonus, perhaps you can gift your staff vouchers as a way of saying thanks. You will be demonstrating to your staff how much you value them; even if it isn’t a significant figure, your team will still feel a spark in motivation from extra money and your expression of generosity.

Job title

Job titles matter. They matter when you’re introducing yourself to someone at an industry event, they matter when you’re selling your skills on a CV and they matter to make you feel like a valuable part of a business. As a small business, you have the advantage of being more flexible with employee job titles than larger corporations. Give your staff a motivational boost by giving them a job title they’re proud of and, if the situation arises, adjust this job title as they grow in your business. If an employee doesn’t feel their job title reflects how hard they work, they could feel less motivated to work to their full potential.

Boosting staff morale and motivation doesn’t have to cost you a great amount as a small business owner. Instead you can adopt some of the tactics above to keep your staff happy, productive and committed.

Darren Craig is CEO of Stratton Craig.

Further reading on motivation

Ben Lobel

Ben Lobel

Ben Lobel was the editor of from 2010 to 2018. He specialises in writing for start-up and scale-up companies in the areas of finance, marketing and HR.

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