No matter if a large size company or a small family business, having a team of motivated, hard-working employees is crucial to your business success. When your staff loses motivation, however, their job performance suffers — they become less productive, less creative, less engaged, less of an asset to the company. The bottom line: You pay a heavy price when employees have motivation issues.
Fortunately, says Todd Patkin, you don’t need a single dime to make your people happy at work or to show them just how much you care about them and appreciate their efforts.
“People will never admit it, but money is not the thing they desire most from their work. Instead, showing appreciation, respect, and, yes, even love are the three most important ways to make your people feel great about their work,” says Patkin, author of Finding Happiness: One Man’s Quest to Beat Depression and Anxiety and — Finally— Let the Sunshine In. “And happy, engaged employees are the single best way to impact your company’s bottom line.”
Patkin isn’t just a talking head — he speaks from experience. For nearly two decades, he was instrumental in leading his family’s auto parts business, Autopart International, to new heights until it was finally bought by Advance Auto Parts in 2006 for more money than he ever dreamed possible. During that time, Patkin made it his number-one priority to always put his people and their happiness first.
“As a leader, I quickly found that if my team was content and their work environment was a positive one, they would be more engaged and motivated, and they would truly care about our organization’s future,” he says.
Patkin adds that if your employees are perpetually stressed out, they’ll be less motivated and more disengaged. And when they’re unhappy, they’ll do only what they must to avoid chastisement…and you’ll lose money in the long term. Also, when the economy turns around, they’ll be more likely to look for a new job elsewhere.
“If there is one thing I would like to tell all leaders at all levels and in all industries, it’s that you have nothing to lose and everything to gain — including an improved bottom line — by making your organization as happy a place to work as possible.”
Here are five of Patkin’s show-the-love strategies that you can use to say “thanks for a job well done!” to any employee, any time, without spending a cent:
SEND “LOVE” NOTES
When you notice that an individual has done an excellent job or has achieved an important goal, send a specific handwritten (not typed!) note conveying your most sincere appreciation and admiration. This will take only one sheet of paper and five minutes out of your day but it’ll make a lasting impression on your employee.
Our society tends to think of work as a place of drudgery, obligation, and boredom, as exemplified in the now-iconic movie Office Space. People certainly don’t think of receiving inspiration and rejuvenation between nine and five. According to Patkin, though, buoying your team’s spirits should be one of your daily goals. If you help them to see the world as a sunnier place and to improve their attitudes and ways of thinking about their entire lives, their professional and personal productivity will increase too.
“If you run across a quotation or story that inspires you, don’t keep it to yourself — pass it along to an employee, and perhaps, if appropriate, also mention that the quote or anecdote reminded you of him and his great attitude,” suggests Patkin. “Alternatively, you might consider sending out a quote or lesson of the day. Yes, the idea might sound hokey at first, but I firmly believe that most people vastly underestimate the power of feeding their minds with inspirational and educational material.”
TELL SUCCESS STORIES
Even if they brush off praise or downplay their achievements, everybody loves to be recognized and complimented. When someone in your organization has done something great, tell her that you noticed her outstanding work, and tell the rest of the team, too! Whether correctly or incorrectly, many employees feel that their leaders take them for granted and only point out their mistakes, so make it your daily mission to prove that perception wrong.
According to Patkin, identifying stars is taking the concept of telling success stories to the next level. Yes, recognize achievements whenever you see them, but also make celebrating your stars a regular event. Sure, some team members will roll their eyes at “Employee of the Week/Month” programs, but you can rest assured that no one is going to turn down this honour.
MAKE IT A FAMILY AFFAIR
Whenever possible, engage your employees’ families when praising them. Having a leader validate all the hours each team member spends at work will be remembered far longer than a bonus (really!). Plus, when spouses and kids know what Mom or Dad does at work and are “on board” with it, your employee’s performance will be buoyed by support from the ones he or she loves the most.
“If an employee did something really tremendous, I would call his home, generally trying to get the answering machine. Then I’d leave a voicemail,” Patkin says. “And in fact, years later, many employees whose families received these phone calls told me that although they didn’t remember how much their bonus cheques were for that year, that extra-special homecoming was still clearly etched in their memories.”
Originally titled “Show Them the Love: Affordable Ways to Boost Employee Happiness, Loyalty, and Motivation”. Reprinted with permission from HRVoice.org, BC Human Resources Management Association’s online industry information centre.