7 budget-friendly ways small business owners can motivate staff

17th February 2021

By now, most entrepreneurs have found their feet in the post-pandemic world, and have pivoted to a different model of doing business — but that doesn’t mean your team has gone unaffected. If you’re operating with fewer team members or different hours, boosting and maintaining staff morale might require a little more elbow grease. Here are seven ways to to motivate staff and empower your employees (without having to empty your pockets):

1. Super-charge employee breaks

Rested employees are productive employees – but too often, a frenetic work environment results in exhausted staff who are capable of doing the bare minimum as a result. It might seem counterintuitive to advocate for proper breaks when you’re doing your best to keep the wheels turning, but if your employees are burnt out, your bottom line will inadvertently suffer. Help your employees make the most of their breaks by providing them with a quiet, comfortable place to take a breather, and consider supplying ice water or cool drinks and some snacks (energy bars, chips, and fruit are great affordable options).

2. Get creative with staff rewards

You don’t have to forego rewarding your staff if your budget is stretched a little thinner than usual. Consider giving employees a paid day off (especially during off peak seasons), or set up a wheel of fortune or lucky dip that consists of various prizes: you can have one or two ‘big ticket’ items and then several smaller rewards like an extra hour of lunch break, an Uber Eats voucher, a slab of chocolate – the possibilities are up to you. As the saying goes, “It’s the thought that counts”, which means even the smallest token of appreciation goes a long way to instil a sense of appreciation and motivate staff.

3. Get the party started

Counter the effects of demanding customers and pandemic fatigue by making an effort to create a pleasant environment that encourages employees to (dare we say it) have fun on the job. Pump the tunes (compile a playlist of employee favourites), get branded t-shirts or uniforms, and implement a five-minute pep-talk complete with a custom war cry before each shift kicks off. You want to give your staff a sense of camaraderie when they’re at work to keep them going!  

4. Schedule one-on-one face time with your staff

Few things are as motivating as sincere, specific praise. Sit down with each employee and thank them for their contribution to the workplace, highlighting their unique personality traits or actions that you’re grateful for. Being ‘seen’ and appreciated is one of the most powerful motivating forces that is sadly overlooked and underdelivered in the workplace.

5. Embrace PDA

No, not that kind. I’m referring to giving staff a shout out on social media. Publicly declaring your appreciation for your employees on your social platforms demonstrates that you value your employees, which helps to instil confidence and boost flagging morale. And staff who’re confident in their abilities are ones who’ll happily put in some extra elbow grease when things get frenetic. 

Pro-tip: Social media shout-outs are also an effective way to amplify your marketing efforts – customers gravitate towards brands that champion their staff, so get @ it.

6. Consider their comfort

Long hours can take a physical toll on your employees. Make it your business to ensure that your staff are comfortable when working. If they’re operating in an air-conditioned area all day, make sure they have adequate layers to stave off the chill. If they’re running between tables or countless laps around the shop floor, provide them with proper footwear. (Sure, this might mean that you need to spend a couple of extra bucks, but the pay off is that you have comfortable staff who’re not slowed down or distracted by their fatigued physical state.)

7. Implement an open-door policy

An approachable supervisor or boss can make all the difference between staff who’re happy to go the extra mile, and staff who silently curse you as you walk past. Let employees know that you’re available between such and such a time, one a day a week, and encourage employees to make use of it. Often, merely knowing that their superior is all ears is often enough to reinforce a sense of loyalty and motivate staff – even if the majority of your team don’t take you up on your offer. 

Lastly, give yourself a proverbial pat on the back: running your own business is all sorts of things, and easy is not one of them. Surviving lockdown and the resulting economic fallout is not for the faint of heart – yet here you are! Here’s to you, your business, and of course, your stellar staff.