One of the most successful business people, Virgin Group founder Richard Branson, has often spoken about the importance of staff for business and how keeping your employees motivated really pays back. His is the famous quote ‘’If you look after your staff, they will look after your customers.’’ which I find quite true both for large and small businesses.
People are the brains and the soul of your organisation. They are literally the face of your company. It is your employees that a customer sees first, right after he’s come into the door. Whether he feels welcome or not will depend on the smile on your employees’ faces or the lack of such.
Whenever there is an issue, it is your staff’s attitude and the way they handle the situation that will reflect on how your organisation is perceived. Imagine that you bought a faulty product that you wanted to return but the staff at the shop created all sorts of problems before they took back the product. You will probably leave the shop frustrated, thinking that you will never buy another product from that shop (not the staff but the shop!). In other words, your customers will identify your organisation with the staff that they deal with.
Apart from all that, whether your organisation is large or small, your employees are your eyes and ears. They are the ones who talk to your customers so they know how people react to different products or services; they are the ones who deal with the issues and thus they are the ones who can provide you with remedy or improvement ideas for these. Your employees are the link between you and your clients and at the same time they know what works and what doesn’t in your organisation first hand.
Thus it is common sense that you should try and keep your staff happy and motivated so that they do their best at work. In my experience, dealing with companies from various industries and sizes, I’ve found that there are several simple steps which when followed will motivate your staff to take the success of your business as a personal mission.
- Emphasise on their role – make sure to clarify their role in the organisations, not only in terms of what their duties are, but more importantly how they bring value to the organisation and what impact they have on customers and consequently, the success of the business. That being said, continuous training and feedback from managers is very important in ensuring that everybody understands their importance to the company. As people understand the consequences of their actions clearly and the contribution they make, they tend to feel more connected to the mission of the organisation and take its success at heart.
- Be a role model – when there’s a positive example, people tend to imitate; when there’s a negative one, they feel their own negative behaviour is justified. Try to set a positive example for your employees. Be the way you want them to be with clients. Act, behave and treat everybody around the way you expect your staff to treat your customers. Demonstrate positive attitude and optimism and you will see that your staff too will start demonstrating the same, among themselves and with customers too. Along these lines, set high standards and show commitment in your own work, so you can demand the same from your employees when it comes to quality and customer service.
- Communicate openly – talk to your people, share news with them, tell them about your objectives for the company, let them know how this or that affects the business. Why not seek ideas and inspiration from them? Explain what you are hoping to achieve this month / year. Get them to give you feedback and share their observations, ask them openly about what motivates them. Sometimes people don’t want much to feel content with a job and you might be able to easily provide them with what they need thus improving staff morale effortlessly. Small gestures such as giving them more responsibility or giving them more diverse tasks, etc. won’t cost you anything but might mean a lot to them.
- Involve employees – make them feel part of the decision making process. Whenever you consider implementing certain rules or making changes, consult your staff. Explain your point of view and get them to contribute with opinions on the topic too. Instead of handing down rules, you could have them come up with rules that they feel necessary or think themselves would work. Something as simple as having a board in the office where everybody can write down ideas to be discussed at your weekly meetings could prove really helpful as it motivates people in making them feel more a part of the company.
- Be appreciative – acknowledge their successes even if small. Make sure to recognise a job well done so that everybody knows their efforts, time and energy spent won’t go unnoticed. When somebody has achieved a huge success such as winning a big account obviously such recognition is expected. Yet, don’t neglect smaller contributions such as coming up with a new filing system, finding an innovative solution to an everyday problem, improving small things around the office or whatever it is. Don’t forget that the person has put thought and energy into it. Initiative is one of the most valuable qualities in an employee. Small tokens of your appreciation such as a ‘thank you’ card or a box of chocolates could motivate people to outperform even more.
Your staff are essential to the health and success of your business. While it is important that you offer good quality products and first class services, nothing can affect your company’s image and reputation as the people who represent your business do. That’s why, as Richard Branson has recognised himself, your employees should come first.