How Big Business Motivate Their Employees (and how you can do within budget)


Productivity and Perks

Any SME owner worth the title of ‘business person’ will know full well their most vital asset is the people who work for them. If the SME you run is successful, then the chances are that you’re already aware of the need to keep staff motivated, involved and engaged beyond the basics of supplying a pleasant working environment and reasonable levels of remuneration.

Big companies know this, and that’s why many institute a raft of schemes, perks and initiatives designed to keep their staff happy and (the key element) productive. Tesco, Asda and Sainsbury’s, for example, all offer 10% staff discount schemes, shares available at a reduced price and perks such as discounted gym membership, health costs and travel insurance. Tesco run a Personal Staff Development scheme, while Sainsbury’s offer interest-free loans to members of staff who have to buy travel cards to make their way into work.

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Kellogg’s, meanwhile, offer their staff flexible working hours, career breaks and either on-site gyms or cut-price access to local facilities. Via their ‘Snap Crackle and Save’ suggestion scheme they encourage staff to get involved with deciding company policy. One suggestion – unifying the thickness of cardboard used in packaging across Europe – saved the company an estimated £250,000 a year.

How Small Businesses Can Motivate Employees

It’s easy to read all of this and come to the conclusion that staff motivation is simple when there’s a lot of cash to throw around, but not so easy on a tight budget. The companies listed above, and other large corporations, however, maintain all of their motivational programmers even when times are harder, reasoning that, in an era of smaller or even non-existent pay rises, other forms of motivation become increasingly important. The principles underlying such schemes – recognition, reward and involvement – are just as easy to maintain, as principles and ways of interacting with staff, on a budget. Indeed, in terms of staff involvement and ensuring that the people who work for you feel they have a genuine stake in the performance and future of the business, an SME probably has a clear advantage over a larger business, in as much as the channels of communication between ‘board room’ and ‘shop floor’ are bound to be shorter and more open.

Make Sure They’re Heard

An easily achievable tip, then, is to consult your staff and make them feel listened to. Not only will this give them the motivation to work hard for the success of your SME it will mean that they feel a genuine part of that success, whilst also allowing them to pass on the kind of ideas that tend to come from the day to day experience of working at the ground level of a business.

Show Your Appreciation

Another affordable motivational tool is the simple ‘thank you’. People in all walks of life value feeling appreciated and whether that comes in the form of some verbal praise, a written commendation or a small gift (tokens for a local restaurant, for example), it will make all the difference the next time a little extra effort is called for. Get to know your staff well enough to realise which of them would appreciate being thanked and praised in front of their co-workers as opposed to those who would rather you took them to one side and had a quiet word.

As you Would Wish To Be Treated

Most motivational tips and tricks boil down to remembering your staff are people and treating them as such; respecting their opinions, offering flexible working patterns to improve their work life balance and encouraging an atmosphere in which honest mistakes are seen as something to learn from and not to apportion blame for.  If you’re able to offer bonuses – in the form of cash or other incentives – make sure that they’re large enough to have some meaning but not so large as to become the dominant driver of productivity, since bonus cultures of this kind encourage work-placed stress and a short term ‘burn out’ mentality.

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