15.6 million of the UK’s workforce are employed by small businesses – so without the big budgets and perks of larger companies, how do you motivate your team?
The Total Jobs survey found that 51% of jobseekers believe there’s less opportunity for progression in a small business because of the perceived lack of a traditional progression ladder.
Climbing without a ladder
This kind of thinking is damaging to staff motivation and it’s also unfounded. It’s true that small businesses are unlikely to support traditional progression, but the personal development opportunities they offer are, for many people, much better. Small business employees face a flexible progression path that’s more like a climbing wall than a ladder – employees can forge their own path up, going sideways or diagonally.
It’s your job to be the guide rope on the rock wall: support your employees, suggest ways to progress, and prevent them from falling into demotivation.
What motivates your team?
Whitney Johnson, author of Dare, Dream, Do, says the most successful businesses are those that recognise that each of their employees carries a secret dream.
Small business owners are well-placed to understand the aspirations of their staff – you probably know your team by name, something near impossible for the CEO of a large company. And your staff are more likely to be invested in the company.
Beech’s Chocolates, a chocolate manufacturer in Preston and Funding Circle borrower, prides themselves on the loyalty of their employees. One member of staff has been with the business for 45 years!
1) Talk to your employees: what are their goals?
Big corporations have HR departments, but for a small business owner it’s likely to be just you and your employees. One of the best steps you can take is recognising that one-on-one conversations should happen, and being proactive about starting them.
Here are some conversation-starters and prompts for talking to staff about their goals:
– Where do you see yourself in five years?
– What can you do in your current role to help you get there?
– What opportunities are there within the business to help get you there?
2) Think about how they can achieve their goals
Talking about aspirations shows you care about progression, which in itself can be a huge motivation boost.
Say Tim works for you in sales, but reveals that he studied design at university and wishes he could work in that field. Even if your company doesn’t have the need for a full-time designer, Tim could spend a couple of hours each week working on the website and newsletter design.
Tim hasn’t progressed up – this isn’t a career ladder – but he’s moved sideways and got a foothold in his dream career. He’s taken a step up in career rock climbing. This will make him feel appreciated, supported and engaged, giving him a motivation boost in his sales role. On top of that, the new website design could even attract new customers.
3) “Train them so they can leave, treat them well so they stay”
This quote from Richard Branson is a great summary of why it pays to invest in staff. Personal development represents an investment, but training can incentivise employees to stick around longer and motivate them to work harder.
Should training matter to small businesses?
For Funding Circle borrower Michelle Partington, who runs Lancashire catering company Lakeland Picnic, investing in staff development is her number one tip for building a successful business. Michelle said, “I’ve put people on college courses and various things like that, I always try to instil that kind of learning philosophy.”
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