Though you may be a business owner now, you have probably spent time working for someone else. Having been an employee with entrepreneurial sensibilities, you may recall instances when you were convinced your boss had forgotten what it was like to be on the front lines. If you’d had more to say about it, perhaps the business could have run more efficiently and profitably. Those beliefs may have been instrumental in your decision to quit your job and open a business of your own.
High pay or job satisfaction?
Now, in the role of employer, you may feel that business is suffering as a result of your workers’ lackluster performance. Most likely, it isn’t low pay or lack of an ultra-modern work environment that is causing the problem. Job satisfaction is more important to most people than high salary or a slick work environment. When your employees feel like important members of your organization, when their input and ideas are welcomed, when you celebrate their successes and reward them for contributions, they feel empowered, and empowering your employees will cause their job satisfaction to skyrocket.
What do you offer beyond a paycheck?
While your company is still in its start-up years, money and resources are likely to be scarce. In order for your business to grow, you need your team members to put forth their best. But why should they do more than the minimum required to pull a paycheck? They need some motivation to help your business to thrive, not just survive. In short, they need to feel they have a personal stake in your success. Here are some tips to encourage that sense of working toward a common goal:
Demonstrate enthusiasm and passion
Enthusiasm is contagious. Convert your people to your cause and it will become their cause. Make them ‘partners’ in your venture and they’ll take personal pride in the company’s success.
Hire the right employees
Before writing your next help-wanted ad, make sure to have a well-defined mission statement. What is the purpose of your organization? What is its overall goal? Including a brief sketch of your mission statement in your ad will help attract people who are intrigued by your vision. Examining your prospective employee’s skills and experience should be second to finding out if he’s even interested in your company’s mission. If you sense he’s just looking for a job, move to the next applicant – there’s no shortage of people seeking work.
Tour the facility with your qualified applicant – even if it’s only your basement or garage. Let him get a feel for your work environment. If he’s still interested, you’re on your way to adding a valuable player to your team. Send a complete job description with the applicant at the end of the interview. While you’re considering him for the job, he can be considering whether the job is right for him. Before your new employee starts his first day, you’ve already begun the empowering process by making sure he has the proper skills and experience, an understanding of his duties, and most importantly, a real interest in the purpose and goals of the company.
Optimize current employees
Firing employees for underperformance should be your last resort. Your first course of action is to examine your leaders. When a sports team underperforms, it’s the coach that gets the scrutiny, not the players. Take a hard look at yourself. Are the demands of entrepreneurship affecting your attitude? Running a business is no walk in the park, but neither is working for a tyrant. Remember why you quit your last job.
Be sure your team leaders are on board with your mission statement. Do they know exactly what their goals are and how to communicate those goals to their respective teams? Are accountability policies being enforced?
Spell out duties
It’s easier for a worker to perform well when he’s clear on his responsibilities. Maximize efficiency and minimize confusion by assigning each task to a specific worker; failure to clearly assign tasks can lead to buck-passing and misunderstandings.
Trust employees to do their jobs
Don’t micromanage. You chose employees that you believe are suited for their jobs. You provide them their job descriptions and train them. You assign them tasks that are within their skill sets. So, step back and let them perform. Workers can’t do their best with the boss breathing down their necks.
Empower your employees by being accessible and welcoming. An open-door policy works to your benefit. When workers feels comfortable coming to you for encouragement, clarification or advice on a project, costly and time-consuming mistakes can be averted.
Listen to your employees
Your employees know your organization almost as well as you do; in some instances they may know it better. You have the master plan, you see the big picture – but they know the details about daily operations. If they have a say about it, perhaps the business can run more efficiently and profitably (sound familiar?). Accept anonymous suggestions and comments, and then bring the team together to discuss their concerns.
Create a fun, caring and rewarding environment
Have a good time! It’s amazing how much stress can be relieved with humor and fun. Laugh at your own mistakes – it gives your people the courage to take risks that could mean significant breakthroughs. Create a feeling of inclusion with ‘inside jokes’. Establish Hawaiian Shirt Day and give a pineapple to the wearer of the ugliest shirt. Even on a shoestring budget, your organization can afford potluck parties and ten-dollar supermarket birthday cakes. Company picnics and ‘white elephant’ gift exchanges foster camaraderie and a sense of unity.
Your people are working to help bring your dream to life – keep them motivated by recognizing their efforts and successes. Even a simple thank-you card or intercom announcement is enough to boost morale. When you encourage fun, remember birthdays, recognize milestones and celebrate successes, you cement loyalty and increase job satisfaction many fold – remember that happy, empowered employees are the secret to success.