Build a Business, Not a Job

22 Ways to Motivate Your Team

How do you retain your top talent?  How do you get the best from your team?  Here are 22 simple ways to help you motivate your team.

  1. Salary: Are you paying your people market rate?  While you will never win with money, you need to be in the right neighborhood.  If you aren’t paying in the market range, you’ll risk higher turnover with the costs associated with that turnover.
  2. Benefits: For many of your team, especially those who are more “security” conscious, the benefits you offer are actually worth more than their true cost to your company. 
  3. Bonuses: Recognize that any bonus that is regularly paid quickly becomes part of the “base” in the minds of your team, a strategic bonus plan can be a great motivator and retention tool.  Ideas range from setting up a semi-annual bonus for qualifying team members that is paid 90 days after the end date, and for which they must still be employed by your company to earn it at that date (by which time they will have earned half of their next semi-annual bonus, making it painful for them to walk away from); to bonuses for generating new business; to bonuses for innovative ways to lower your structural costs.
  4. Commissions: For some of your staff, letting them earn “success fees” and “commissions” is a great motivator.  The biggest mistake I see with sales compensation plans is to have too high and not enough of the earnings on commission (if in fact that is how you want to structure your sales team comp.)  A sales team that earns too much on base is more concerned with selling you on not firing them than they are on selling more of your products and services.
  5. Contests: Set a goal, have a clear way to measure progress that your team can visually see, and reward the result.  The best contests bring a team together, either by setting a team challenge and reward, or by being playful enough that they let any competition be healthy competition, not destructive competition.
  6. Great work environment: Do people like the feeling and atmosphere of your office?  Do they feel good when they are at work?  After all, they are spending 8+ hours a day there, give them an work environment that brings out their best.
  7. Flexibility of schedule: Where possible, can you let your team schedule work around family commitments?  Or give them the ability to feel in control of their own calendar?  Obviously the job has to get done, and the nature of the work and your business will put some constraints there, but within those constraints you have a lot of room to be flexible.  This costs you nothing, and can mean the world to your team.  It can also be something they have to earn (as well it should.)
  8. Work remotely (all or part time): This is one of the highest valued perks my team likes with Maui Mastermind.  Not only does it cost you nothing, but likely it will reduce your costs as you have the need for less space in your office.  Yes you have to work harder to improve communication and workflow, but this can spark you to increase quality and volume of output by your team.
  9. Vacation time: Let your team earn more vacation time based on their performance.  Whether this be you reward a team that came through on a big project with a 4-day weekend, or you let any team member who is in their 3rd year with you get a 3rd week of paid time off, vacation time is a sweet perk that many small business owners can use to retain top talent.
  10. Unpaid time away: If you can’t afford to pay them for those extra three weeks of vacation you want them to have, perhaps you can give them weeks 3, 4 and 5 off for that once in a lifetime trip, just without pay.  Again, be creative here and keep this in your bag of tricks to use with individual situations of your top people.
  11. Greater autonomy: This is a huge motivator for your team – letting them earn the ability to self-manage and to do things their way.  After all, it’s likely one of the strongest drives that compelled you to start your own business to begin with so why shouldn’t it be as compelling to your team?
  12. Greater responsibility: Your team will see that when they earn greater responsibility they are growing professionally.  It’s a sign that you trust them more, and that they are creating more value for the company.  This is a powerful intoxicant for top producers.  Of course if you give them greater responsibility you need to give them the authority to meet those responsibilities too.
  13. Share information: Bringing a team member into the “inside” where you share key information with them is a clear signal that you value and trust them.  On a lessor scale, even just sharing more mundane information with your team in an organized and regular way is a motivator as it keeps employees in the “know”.  It’s a sign that you respect them.  Often this motivator is employed in its opposite—by not sharing information – and the destructive, demotivating message of distrust and disrespect that sends.
  14. Ask and value their input— honor their voice:  When was the last time you asked for a team member’s opinion?  Or confided in them asking for their help to solve a thorny issue?  Asking your team for input on how to solve problems or to improve the company is a great way to engage your workforce.  If you do this, make sure you are serious and not just paying lip service to their ideas.  Your staff can smell insincerity a mile away.
  15. Cool work: Is the work your team does inherently challenging and absorbing?  Do you have the ability to hand off cool projects to your key team?
  16. Feeling of growth: Do you have a plan in place to help your staff learn and grow?  This can be as simple as taking time each quarter to give your team feedback and help them map out a plan of action to grow professionally.  You do this with your managers and encourage your managers to do this with their teams. 
  17. Let them bring pets into work: From my experience, it is a great reward to bring a pet in to work versus the stress of finding a way to care for them while they are at work.
  18. Let them bring their kids in to work (or work home to their kids): If you can swing the onsite day care, that can be a huge perk for your people.  Obviously most small businesses can’t afford this.  But this can also be letting them bring a child in who has an afternoon off at school, or perhaps letting them work from home (mentioned above) if they have a sick kid.  It can also having a contract with a local babysitter service and rewarding your core team with x days of sitting for when they need it during the work day.
  19. Aspirational—a path forward: Help your team map out a career with your company, not just a job.  The clearer you paint that future picture with them the more committed they will be to doing great work and enhancing their capabilities to fit in with the future you paint for them.
  20. A mission to be part of: Does your team move boxes or move the world?  Do they feel connected to a higher calling with your business?  At Maui Mastermind we “coach business owners” to grow their companies and reduce its reliance on them the owner.  But our team all feel part of a company that changes lives – of our clients, of their staffs, of their vendors, of their customers, and of the families of all of these groups.  We share stories of client’s success.  We start or end many meetings with reminders that we’re not here to coach a business, but to bring the humanity back into building a business. (Yes you can grow your business and get your life back!  You can build a company that gives opportunities and security to a growing team of employees.)
  21. Relationship—a personal connection: Be willing to forge deep personal connections with your team.  Take the time to get to know them and their lives.  Share about yours.  I know that many business owners (myself included) hold ourselves back for fear of drama or awkward moments, but in general, we error too often on isolating ourselves from our teams.  So take a team member out to lunch, organize a social event, ask them how their son is doing is school, and truly be open to connecting in an authentic way.
  22. Identity—how they see themselves: The team at Zappos see themselves in a special way.  It’s clear to me every time I order from them over the phone.  The more you can get your team to identify with your company, to see their work with you as part of who they are, the more committed they will be and the happier they’ll be working with you.  So help shape how your team see themselves.