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Have you ever wished you could motivate your small business employees to be more productive? If so, you probably know how difficult it can be to accomplish. Asking nicely doesn't work. Ruling with an iron fist doesn't improve performance, either. In fact, this approach almost always backfires. The trick to increasing employee productivity is making employees want to work harder. The following 10 tips will help you foster a workplace environment that's conducive to bringing out the best in your staff.
1. Be transparent
When workers feel like they are in the inner circle, they are more likely to give it their all. Being transparent about your long-term goals and plans for the company allows workers to feel more invested in the outcome. When an employee is expected to blindly follow orders, they are far less likely to care, which means they are less likely to work hard. By conveying the purpose of the directions or requests that you give, your workers will feel that their efforts are more important and meaningful.
2. Cut back on meetings
This may be sacrilege in the world of business, but in many cases meetings are little more than time-wasters. Anyone who attends work meetings on a regular basis can attest to this. If you need to convey something to your personnel, do so via email or by speaking to each person individually. Reserve meetings for truly crucial, game-changing situations, and for situations where you need employees to get together to brainstorm new approaches or solutions to a business objective.
3. Take your staff out from time to time
When workers feel like their noses must constantly be to the grindstone, they are less likely to make productive use of their time. Allowing occasional breaks can actually make them much more productive, and it's even better when the boss is the one who encourages those breaks. Therefore, if your business has just a few employees, occasionally take everyone out for quick lunches and other outings. If you have too many employees to do that, consider having a catered buffet or barbeque on site once or twice a year and encouraging employees to stay and chat with coworkers and bosses. These occasions allow workers to get to know each other, which helps them collaborate more effectively and makes them feel more like a cohesive unit.
4. Allow flexible work hours
Unless there is a very good reason for needing workers to be present at specific times of day, allow them to work when they are most likely to be productive. As we all know, some people are morning people while others thrive later in the day. Allowing workers to create their own schedules makes them more productive--and much more satisfied with their jobs.
5. Be actively involved in everyday affairs
Just because you're the boss doesn't mean that you should stay out of day-to-day tasks. When it makes sense to do so, assist workers in completing their tasks. For example, roll up your sleeves and help out with shipping if you have a period of high demand. Let the employee who is usually in charge be in charge, and have that person tell you to do to get help get the orders processed. Doing so helps you be a role model while allowing you to show the importance of working hard. However, take care not to interfere or to nitpick the way people do things, which can make workers resentful and less productive. If you do discover business processes that need improving, ask the employee who usually does the work if they wish there were some better way to do the job - and if they say yes, if they have any suggestions.
6. Understand what makes workers tick
Get to know your workers as much as possible. Doing so will help you understand their motivations for working in the first place. For example, one employee may be saving up for college while another may be supporting children on a single income. Knowing these small details allows you to arm workers with the resources and support that they need to excel.
7. Offer small incentives
Providing large raises or bonuses for your best workers is not always possible. While it is important for people to feel that they are being fairly compensated, occasionally offering small incentives can also be an effective tool for getting more out of your staff. If you're scrambling to meet a deadline, for instance, offering a $20 or $50 gift card to the person who gets the most done is likely to make everyone more productive.
8. Celebrate small accomplishments
Be your workers' biggest cheerleader by providing immediate rewards for a job well done. Something as simple as a mass email acknowledging a worker's recent accomplishment goes a long way toward showing that they are a valued member of the team.
9. Make the most of technology
If you haven't updated your IT infrastructure in a while, you are probably missing out on many great ways to automate various tasks. Chances are that some of the busy work that's currently being handled by your personnel could be accomplished more quickly, efficiently and accurately by computer software. For instance, programs like Trello and Asana can make it easier for your staff to collaborate on projects. Dragon NaturallySpeaking can let you and your employees dictate memos and reports and email - and even send the email - all without typing. And programs like Hootsuit and Buffer make it easier to organize and manage social media participation. Depending on the nature of your business, the size of it, and your budget, chances are you can find dozens of programs and apps that could increase your employees' productivity.
10. Let people work from home
Traditionally, employers have been reluctant to let workers telecommute because they had no easy way to track their activities from afar. Modern technology has changed that. Thanks to mobile devices, the Internet and other technologies, keeping in touch with workers wherever they are is a snap. While working from home isn't for everyone, it can bring out the best in certain types of workers. At the very least, consider giving it a test run.
Making workers more productive isn't about instituting stricter rules or dangling carrots in front of their noses. Instead, make every worker feel like a crucial member of the team by implementing the above tips. Before too long, you are sure to see a major return on your very modest investment.
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