Seven top tips for motivating your employees

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Ask any small business owner and they will tell you one of the most important challenges they face on a daily basis is managing their staff.

So what works and what doesn’t when it comes to motivating your team?

The businesses in the 2014 Smart50 are among the fastest growing in Australia and they know a thing or two about successfully managing teams. Here’s their seven best tips for getting the most out of your workers.

1. Catch up regularly

For Mike Frizell, founder of Smart50 winner Pet Circle, the key to getting the most out of his employees is regular catch-ups, whether formally or informally.

“We believe that it is important to recognise achievements of individuals and the company on a regular basis,” Frizell told SmartCompany.

“Our full body of staff meets on a monthly basis. Big wins are shared with the team, various departments provide updates on what they’re working on and what’s changed since the last meeting, and individuals are called out for achievements and hard work … It helps unify the team and align their goals. It also helps each member feel a part of a bigger collective.”

Capi Sparkling founder Wolfgang ‘Pitzy’ Folk also makes an effort to regularly share a meal with his staff, providing them with breakfast each morning and joining them for lunch each Thursday.

“Most of our business is done over lunch,” he says. “It’s the best way to do business.”

“Business is all about integrity and you can’t fake that, you’ve got to live it. You can’t do everything on your own so you have to share the rewards and also the pain.”

2. Give them experience

At online retailer HardToFind, co-founder Erica Stewart says her tip for motivating employees is to give them the chance to learn.

“We’re a small team, so everyone gets involved in parts of the business that they don’t necessarily have experience in,” Stewart told SmartCompany.

“This means the team are constantly learning new things, which keep them interested and engaged.”

The approach has paid off for HardToFind, with a number of employees moving into new roles within the business based on the new skills they’ve picked up.

“Our seller support manager is now our operations manager because she showed an interest and aptitude in accounting and team management,” says Stewart.

3. Allow them to ‘own’ something

Many of our Smart50 winners spruik the benefits of allowing employees to feel a sense of ownership of their work and it’s an approach GMG Search Engine Optimisation has incorporated into its management style.

“We employ what is known as holacracy or a flat management system,” explains co-founder Nick Grinberg.

“This means that there isn’t any hierarchy or micromanagement internally. We want our staff to feel empowered to make their own decisions and thus be accountable for them.”

And the result is more committed and driven employees.

“Over the last year we have seen that if our employees have a direct influence over the success of a campaign or even the business as a whole, they will put their best effort forth and feel more fulfilled with the work they are performing,” Grinberg says.

4. Keep them in the loop

Don’t underestimate the power of sharing information with your staff, says Ventis HQ co-founder Blair Milnes.

“Have them understand the impact they have on the business, good or bad,” says Milnes.

“Share with them non-sensitive information as to what their contribution means to the attainment of the company vision [and] provide guidance and opportunity for autonomy.”

“Not all will rise to the occasion but the good ones will just thrive and get better.”

5. Make sure they have what they need to get their work done

You will get more out of your employees if you provide them with the right equipment and facilities, says Punters.com.au founder Luc Pettett.

“I’m a big believer in giving staff absolutely everything they need to do their job: iPads, the best iMacs, extra monitors, a comfortable chair, great coffee,” Pettett says.

“We don’t see any point in hiring a new employee and then slowing them down with budget limitations.”

“If you’re willing to hire a staff member, you’re willing to give them everything they need to become a star employee. This might even include the occasional trip to Melbourne for a conference or free lunches – whatever it takes to help them along.”

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Eloise Keating is the editor of SmartCompany. Previously, Eloise was news editor at Books+Publishing, the trade press for the Australian book industry.

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