As your small business scales, company culture becomes make-or-break. Your people are your most important asset because they have the biggest impact on the bottom line.
That’s why 68% of global business leaders believe company culture is a source of competitive advantage, according to Bain & Company.
Global studies find motivated employees are more productive and they treat your customers better. They take the initiative to solve problems. They genuinely care about your business success.
A motivational culture is a huge differentiator of success for your business. So how do you create that culture?
#1 – Live your core values
A motivated workplace has everyone pulling in the same direction, driven by a shared system of beliefs towards a common purpose.
What does your business stand for? What are you trying to achieve? You should have answers for these questions. The way your business acts should be consistent with those answers.
Consistent values are your beacon, attracting people who are motivated by achieving the same things, in the same ways, that you are. Those are the people you hire, building a motivational culture from the ground-up and sustaining momentum as you grow.
#2 – Make your people feel heard
People won’t go the extra mile unless they feel valued – and they won’t feel valued unless they feel heard. Plus, listening allows you to address any issues before they become demotivating.
There are loads of ways to give people a voice:
- Put up a suggestions whiteboard
- Schedule formal team meetings
- Introduce anonymous email surveys
- Engage with employee feedback platforms like Glassdoor
- Hold informal catch-ups or huddles
- Create ‘how we’ve implemented your advice’ updates
Remember this is a two-step process. People won’t feel heard if they’re speaking into the void. Be proactive about addressing feedback – positive or negative – and never ignore voices of dissent.
#3 – Recognise hard work; reward success
People won’t stay motivated unless their efforts are recognised and rewarded. But this isn’t as simple as raising salaries.
A Harvard Business Review study found people who work because of economic pressure – i.e. simply to earn money – tend to be less motivated and perform worse. Throwing money at the situation isn’t a long-term solution to employee motivation.
Instead, realise that employee motivation is about fairness more than figures. You want staff to feel their hard work is appreciated. To feel they’re rewarded above and beyond when they go above and beyond. Some ways you could do that:
- Say a quick word of thanks
- Send a personal note
- Give a small, personal gift
- Send a business-wide email
- Introduce an incentives program
- Offer a performance-based bonus
The point is that these things are important beyond economic value. They’re a token of gratitude, appreciation, and respect.
#4 – Lead by example
As a business owner, you have to prove you’re willing to get your hands as dirty as your team. Don’t just talk the talk. Walk the walk and you’ll earn respect. If your people respect you, they’ll be more motivated to make the business a success.
You set the culture of your business. If you arrive late, take long lunches, and your chair is spinning by 5pm, your employees will follow suit.
#5 – Invest in your people
Stagnation is the enemy of motivation. To build a more motivated workforce hire people with big dreams, then give them the tools to realise those dreams.
That could mean:
- Building a formal training programme
- Supporting staff to gain external qualifications
- Sending staff to industry events
- Investing in the latest technology
- Setting up a mentoring programme
- Sharing your own time and experience
- Introducing personal career development plans
You’re asking people to invest their time, effort, and ambition in your business. Invest in them in return, or they’ll eventually stop investing in you.
Building a culture of motivation is one of the most important things you can do to support your business growth. “Culture” sometimes seems intangible, easy for smaller businesses to ignore, but you cannot afford to drop the ball here.
We wish to thank Jon Paul Kelly, a Director at Trust Deed Scotland for his contribution.