How motivated teams power successful small businesses

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Agility, resiliency and entrepreneurialism are some of the commonly-touted attributes deemed ‘essential’ for all small businesses to be successful. A lesser-heralded, but perhaps more important quality, is simply, motivation; a byproduct of a commitment to creating an engaging, welcoming and inclusive environment where staff feel valued and supported.

People are the heart of every business, and when they genuinely feel like it, the benefits can be immense. A motivated workforce results in lower levels of absenteeism, higher retention rates, and improved productivity and performance. It’s contagious, and can permeate throughout a business, not just internally, but externally to customers and stakeholders, too. With businesses looking for any competitive advantage to succeed, there might just be a simpler solution at hand.

Make happiness non-negotiable

Albert Schweitzer, a French theologian and philosopher once said: “Success is not the key to happiness. Happiness is the key to success.” And so, happiness – and the motivation it can stimulate – must be made an integral part of workplace culture. Indeed, research from the University of Oxford found that happy employees are 13% more productive than those that are discontent. While it may not sound significant, it’s equivalent to almost one additional day worked every eight. That’s not to say they’re working more, they’re just getting more done in the same amount of time.

Today, so much precedent is placed on hard skills – those that are teachable and measurable – like sales or accounting. However, soft skills – those that can characterise a good employee – are equally important. With the conclusion of JobKeeper still fresh, and little insight yet into any potential support measures for SMEs ahead of the approaching Federal Budget, creating a motivated environment could be gold dust.

How to boost motivation

Communicating with employees is a simple way to boost motivation. Open, honest dialogue makes employees feel valued as people and lets them know there’s someone in the business they can approach with questions or concerns. Communication today might be more important than ever, especially as so many businesses remain remote, or hybrid, post-lockdown. In fact, Zoho research found that almost half of Australian SMB’s planned to remain remote even after pandemic-related restrictions ease.

Simple gestures of appreciation and recognition can really brighten someone’s day. Anything from a private thank you to a public acknowledgement following a great result or project is motivating, and contagiously so. Positivity is crucial, however too much of it can feel insincere and even misleading. Therefore, mastering the delivery of constructive criticism lets an individual assess themselves accurately, helps them improve and demonstrates that their personal and professional development matters to you.

An instant messaging system can be beneficial for delivering feedback discreetly and responsibly. For example, sending an employee a compliment on a group chat will boost their morale and encourage good work, and offering gentle constructive criticism privately will help them identify areas for improvement and build better habits.

A small business that values every employee’s opinion is likely to bring them together. Making the working environment flexible and people-focussed – for example, by letting employees work from home – can make them feel more comfortable and valued. If it’s important to them, try to make it important to your small business.

Bridging the gap between an employee and an employer can be challenging. However, use your size to your advantage by making yourself as personable and accessible to your team as possible. When employees feel more personally ingrained within the business they work for, their motivation and affinity for it grows.

It’s easy to think that business success is dependent on a ground-breaking product or service or significant investment. The reality, however, isn’t the case; business success can quite literally hinge on your ability to create a stimulating, enriching environment that motivates your team and empowers your business.