As a business owner, finding a balance between managing your employees and handling your business priorities can be a challenge. After all, you had plenty to do before you had an office full of employees – now you’ve got even more to do to ensure that your entire business continues to run at peak productivity.
Unfortunately, viewing employees as drains on your time instead of as powerful resources that must be managed appropriately leads to low morale, which – in turn – leads to higher turnover and lower productivity. Instead of falling victim to this over-worked, over-tired mindset, it’s your job as a boss to inspire your employees in order to get them to bring their best selves to your office.
Think that all sounds pretty “new age-y?” Think again! According to research compiled by communications firm Capstrat on the career priorities of Millenials (who make up 37% of today’s workforce and whose numbers are growing every day), finding a company whose values they can get behind is one of the most important parts of the job search.
In fact, a whopping 72% of Millenials rank finding a personally and professionally fulfilling career as a top priority – compared to just 57% who place the same value on securing a high salary:
But even workers who don’t fall into this generational demographic benefit from working for companies they care about. Everybody wins when you cultivate an atmosphere of passion and excitement within your office – so here’s how to do it:
Share your company’s story
The first thing you can do to inspire your employees is to personalize their employment experience by regularly sharing your company’s story. What made you start your company? What are you passionate about when it comes to developing new products or caring for your customers? Why do you do what you do?
The reality is that employees care about the companies they work for. They want to feel like they’re working for good corporate citizens who are actively trying to make the world a better place, and not for businesses whose sole purpose is to wring as much profit as possible out of their customers. Making your employees feel that they’re part of this solution will get them energized and fired up, leading to employees that are more engaged and feel more personally responsible for contributing to the company’s success.
One word of caution, though. If you do share your company’s story in an effort to inspire your employees, you’ve got to live out your vision each and every day. Talking yourself up like one of the “good guys” – only to turn around and pull a Gordon Gekko won’t do a thing to inspire your employees’ passion.
Make your success your employees’ success
Of course, if you want to truly personalize your company’s story for your employees, you’ve got to go beyond simply sharing your vision. Instead, you need to find a way for everybody to win as your company grows – making your success your employees’ success by extension.
Plenty of companies do this by offering employees a financial stake in the business, via profit sharing and employee stock purchase plans. But even if this isn’t an option for your company, you can still create an atmosphere that rewards your employees for performance that advances your business objectives. Special awards, employee recognition events and other performance-based incentives are all great ways to help your employees feel responsible for ensuring the success of your company.
Empower your employees
Ironically, though many bosses view their employees as petty children whose whims must be carefully managed, many employees are actually looking for opportunities to prove themselves and take on more responsibilities. Give them that chance to succeed, and they’ll reward you with loyalty and good work.
Obviously, this isn’t true of all employees. Slackers exist, though by setting the bar high for your corporate culture, you’ll often find that these people weed themselves out of your employment situation for jobs that require less investment on their parts.
But for those employees who are committed to improving their skills and growing within your organization, consider making more opportunities for professional growth and development available. Give “rank and file” employees the chance to lead projects or handle key parts of your process, providing whatever support is necessary to help them make the transition to leadership roles – but then sit back and watch as they step up and contribute even more to your company.
Look beyond job titles to nurture passions
Similarly, be wary of painting your employees into narrow boxes as defined by their job titles. Just because you’ve hired someone to a technical role doesn’t mean that he doesn’t have a creative side waiting to flourish. You might be surprised to find out that a member of your accounting team has a hidden talent for coming up with advertising pitches – although you won’t know that if you don’t make an effort to look beyond your employees’ job titles.
To familiarize yourself with your employees’ hidden passions, you’ve got to commit to building mentorship relationships with each of them. Unfortunately, you can’t do this through once-a-month email messages – you’ve got to set aside the time to get to know your employees on a one-on-one basis to help them feel comfortable enough with you to reveal these hidden talents.
Once you’ve established these relationships, provide employees with ways to expand their skill sets into the areas they’ve demonstrated an inclination towards (obviously, in a way that doesn’t interfere with their ability to get existing projects done). Taking a risk by encouraging employees to step outside of their departments not only demonstrates that you believe in and value your employees’ contributions, it also results in a more productive, effective workplace.
Make your office environment fun
Finally, as business owners, we all have a tendency to take our work a little too seriously sometimes. So why not take the time to bring a little fun and excitement to your office in order to break up monotonous weeks of hard work?
Stumped on where to start? Try any of the following:
- Close the office early on a Friday following a particularly stressful week and take your entire team out for pizza.
- Surprise employees with an unexpected casual dress day (assuming your office maintains a business casual code of appearance).
- Bring in a ping pong table, pool table or other game to give your employees a chance to blow off steam.
- Set up a napping room for mid-afternoon siestas (which offers the additional benefit of helping your employees to be more productive throughout the day).
- Write hand-written thank you notes to employees who have gone above and beyond on some task or project.
What’s extra awesome about all of these ideas is that they don’t require a ton of extra cash. Really, it doesn’t take higher salaries or better benefits to inspire your employees. Even if your company is operating on the smallest of budgets, it’s possible to create this same dynamic of excitement and passion by going out of your way to show employees that they work somewhere special.
It’s easy to think of “inspiring your employees” as requiring large, sweeping gestures, but it’s often much simpler than that. Creating a place of business where your employees feel valued, believe in what they’re working towards and want to come to work every day leads to inspiration – no matter what industry you’re in or what size your company is.