5 Methods to Keep Employees Motivated and Challenged

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One of the most valuable skills you can sharpen as a manager of a small business is the ability to engage and challenge the people you employ. If you hire the right team and manage it well, the result is a workforce that excels in performance and growth. On the other hand, a failure to motivate your employees can lead to unwelcome turnover, and in general, the management of your company is in a constant state of change and chaos.

To keep everyone motivated, small business owners can encourage their employees to become partners in the business. This does not mean that they are co-owners of the company, but it does mean that everyone who works for you is personally invested in the success and growth of the business.

When employees are respected for the talents and skills they bring to the company, it has a motivating effect that can be contagious. It builds a sense of partnership among employees. Other characteristics of a motivational manager include building trust among employees at all levels, including employees in decision-making (especially decisions requiring changes that directly affect work duties) and maintaining open communication.

Challenging employees begins with understanding the various factors that affect each individual's workday. Once you understand this, you can be the boss that challenges everyone without stressing anyone. Here are five ways to get started:

Give consistent feedback


Start by letting your employees know how you rate their performance at work. Praise is a great motivator, but constructive criticism also pushes employees to make improvements in areas that could use a little more attention.

Do not wait for an annual review. Offer praise and criticism frequently because it shows that you care about the company, the assigned tasks and the employees.

Communicate issues and questions that affect the company


Sometimes the best solutions do not come from managers and owners. Often they come from the employees who work in the trenches. For this reason it is a good idea to inform everyone when problems and questions arise.

Again, trust is the key. Sometimes you have to resist the urge to protect the employees from the difficulties associated with owning small businesses. Although one may be tempted to do so with the best of intentions, withholding important information can have a demoralizing effect on employees.

Ask for suggestions and solutions


If you give feedback, you should be willing to receive it. Let them contribute their ideas for repairing non-functioning systems and developing new programs that you will need when business picks up again. Challenge them to make the small business even better.

Whenever possible, let them define their tasks


This may sound scary at first, but it's not. When you hire a new employee, she or he understands that certain essential tasks must be done (and done well) to keep her or him busy.

But what about the special tasks that come up? Do you need someone to volunteer for a charity event, design a window display or paint? Ask for volunteers and then delegate. People will be more willing to take on non-routine tasks if it is something they are interested in.

Do not take advantage from employees


Challenge your employees without any rewards or encouragement, and they probably won't stay here long. This does not mean that money is your only option. With non-monetary incentives such as flexitime, employee discounts and recognition programs (e.g. Employee of the Month) you can reward a job well done.

Ultimately, employees have some responsibility for staying motivated and challenged in their positions. As the boss, it is your job to create an environment that encourages and rewards the hard work and innovation of the people who keep your business running day after day.

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