Why Summer Fun Is Smart Business

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    Happy summer everyone! This is the time of year when everyone’s attention turns to the outdoors, time off, and hopefully slowing down a bit. And that then begs the question – how can you best support your staff such that they get to enjoy the summer season and you still are ensured that everything that needs to get done will get done?

    Let me suggest that the first step is as simple as making sure everyone has the tools they need to succeed. For instance, my pals here at Greatland let you not worry about how to handle W-2 and 1099s. By allowing your troops to do what they do best, instead of dealing with issues that are likely not their strong suit, you free everyone up to be more effective and, yes, have some fun.

    Fun? You bet. Fun is good for business. It turns out that there are all sorts of very real business reasons for loosening the reins a bit and giving people the room to have a good time. First of all, it results in better productivity; research has shown that people who enjoy their work and have fun at the office are in fact significantly more productive than people who are bored.

    And not only that, but allowing for some fun at the office offers additional benefits, such as:

    • Stress relief: All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy, and Jill a dull girl, and no one wants dull employees.
    • A boost of morale. When people work at jobs where the culture is one of tedium or over-overwork and stress, they are less happy, and unhappy employees are a drain on resources – they call in sick more, work less hard, and so on. Conversely, fostering fun at work makes employees happier. And happier employees means . . .
    • Happier customers: When your staff likes working where they work, they are of course happier and more enthusiastic, and as a result, customers can feel that. Customers usually love real enthusiasm. Consider: Would you rather buy from a store where the staff is bored silly and resentful or one where employees have a good time and like what they do? Exactly.

    All of this makes sense, does it not? The clear benefits of having a light culture are a main reason why such innovative, cutting-edge companies as Google and Facebook incorporate into their workplace things like scooters, video games, and other tools that promote a casual, fun culture. Employees at companies like these work hard, but play hard too.

    For the small business, making similar changes need not be expensive or difficult. For instance, you could

    • Install a basketball hoop in the parking lot.
    • Put a ping ping-pong or foosball ball table in the break room.
    • Put in an Xbox Box or other video game system.

    The important thing is to get that an enjoyable culture leads to a more enjoyable workplace, and everyone enjoys that.

    Technology can help you ake your business life easier. See how our pals at Microsoft can help!

    What are the best employee motivators?

    What motivates employees?

    For sure, having a great culture is a mighty motivator for employees, but of course it is not the only one. Essentially, there are two other ways to motivate employees: with money and without money. In this blog I am going to discuss ways to motivate with money (which is not always as easy as it sounds). In my next blog, we will look at non-financial motivators.

    It is no secret that money motivates people, you know that, I know that, we all know that. Holding sales contests, offering bonuses, dangling raises—these are tried-and-true ways to motivate people. The benefits package you offer is another financial motivator, but this begs the question: Why does it take money to motivate an employee?

    The answer is that the possibility of making more money transforms the employee into an entrepreneur, and entrepreneurship is based on the premise that hard work and ingenuity will be rewarded. Isn’t that how you think? “If I implement that plan, we could increase sales by 10 percent!” Well, that is precisely what an employee thinks when offered a money motivator. “If I sell more than anyone else this month, I win that trip to Hawaii!” So the secret to motivating with money is to tap into this mind-set for mutual benefit.

    First, you can always link an employee’s pay to performance. That is exactly how commissioned salespeople work. Similarly, you could link bonuses to desired outcomes. For example, you might offer your director of operations a nice bonus if he can reduce overhead by 10 percent for the year. A manager might get 10 percent of any increased revenues for his store for the month. There are many ways to structure such a compensation program.

    But remember, when creating a money-motivated system, it is important that the reward be linked to an outcome that the employee can control. The director of operations can directly affect overhead, but he or she cannot increase sales, so a reward based on increased sales would not work for him or her and in fact may be counter-productive. If the reward is based on overall company performance, the employee will be motivated to try harder only if he or she can affect that performance. As long as the reward and the desired action are linked, the motivation will be there.

    Finally, let’s look at contests. Contests have been used to motivate employees for ages, and for a good reason – they work. Contests build excitement and create desired behaviors and outcomes. The secret is that the best contests

    • Use realistic and achievable goals
    • Are limited to a short period of time
    • Have desirable prizes
    • Link rewards to performance, and
    • Have uncomplicated rules

    So yes, motivating with money works, and works well, but fortunately, it is not the only way to motivate people. Read my next blog to get some good ideas of non-financial motivators.

    Technology can help you make your business life easier. See how our pals at Microsoft can help!

    Motivating without money

    Employees who are disengaged are so for a reason. The Gallup Organization’s annual survey of employment found that employees are unmotivated when they do not know what is expected of them, when they feel stagnant in their work, and when they do not feel appreciated. People lose enthusiasm for a job when it becomes boring and routine, when bosses are clueless, and when their employer seems to care more about money than people.

    If you want to motivate employees without money, the first thing you need to do is engage them. You need to learn what excites the problematic employee and try and incorporate that into their work. What motivates people is feeling appreciated as individuals and contributing what they have to offer.

    Indeed, there are many simple ways to motivate people, to have them feel appreciated, without spending a lot of money:

    Show your appreciation. Thanking employees for a job well done is so simple yet so effective. Thanks can take many forms. It could be a pat on the back from a manager, a call from the president, a special parking spot for a week, a night out with your team, increased territory, a massage and facial, or a round of golf. FedEx inscribes the names of special employees’ children on the nose of new planes to thank the employee for a job well done. How often do you see a plaque naming the employee of the month?

    Recognize employees. Letting everyone know that a team member did a great job works wonders. A survey conducted by the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources found that for 68% of employees, being appreciated is important to job satisfaction. At Blanchard Training in Escondido, California, praise from customers and managers is reprinted in the company newsletter. What about sending a press release regarding an accomplishment to your trade journal?

    Ask for input. Listening to employee ideas and taking action on them makes people feel as if they are part of a team and that what they say makes a difference. At Grumman Corporation in New York, employees whose suggestions are implemented receive gift certificates. Fel-Pro in Skokie, Illinois, has a yearly drawing for $1,000 for all employees who participated in the employee suggestion program.

    Offer freebies. Employees who do something above and beyond the call of duty can be given an afternoon off, a gift certificate to Nordstrom, or tickets to a sporting event. At H. B. Fuller Company in St. Paul, Minnesota, employees get a paid day off on their birthday. Mary Kay Cosmetics gives the birthday girl a lunch voucher for two.

    Make your business a special place to work. What about having a massage therapist come by every other week for complimentary 15-minute back massages at employees’ desks? What about an in-house yoga class? Have a yearly picnic with spouses and children. Organize a rafting trip down the river. None of these ideas costs a lot, but all would be appreciated, and appreciation is motivation.

    The thing about non-monetary rewards is that you need to be creative. Take suggestions. A few changes can reap tremendous rewards.

    Technology can help you make your business life easier. See how our pals at Microsoft can help!

    What kind of boss are you?

    I recently heard this great, great-boss story:

    A woman was about to start a new job when an unexpected medical emergency came up and she had to schedule significant surgery right before starting the new position. So she called up her boss-to-be and explained the situation. But rather than being upset, or calling the new job off, he arranged it so that she would start the job on disability leave and thereby get her salary to kick-in.

    When her first check arrived two weeks later, it turned out that it was for her full salary and not the partial disability salary she expected. She called the boss to say that a mistake had been made, but he said no, that they decided to pay her normally. He wished her a speedy recovery and said that they hope to see her soon. Of course she is so grateful that she says they will have a loyal employee forever.

    Isn't that one of the main benefits of being a great boss – you get to create a happy and productive workplace? Yes, being a good boss sometimes costs more and requires greater patience, but the payoffs far outweigh any burdens:

    • You make more money. Studies show that happy employees create happy customers and happy customers create happy bank accounts
    • You instill loyalty and hard work. People like to work for people they like, and will work harder and better. They will also have a better attitude and be willing to go the extra mile
    • You can sleep at night: I can tell you that, having once had a boss threaten to put his cigarette out in my forehead because I didn't hit my numbers that month, I don't know how some of these people live with themselves. But the opposite is true too – good bosses set great examples.

    And the thing is, it is not that difficult to be a good boss. It is really a matter of trying to do the right thing. How about the boss who offered an employee all of the available overtime work one month because he knew she was in a bad financial situation? It didn't cost him anything but it sure did gain him a lot. Or the boss who made sure that the pregnant cashier was able to sit down while doing her job?

    Little things go a long way in the workplace. Good bosses are fair, they trust their staff, they challenge you to do your best, they listen, and they are respectful.

    And just maybe, they give folks that extra Friday off here and there during the summer.

    Technology can help you make your business life easier. See how our pals at Microsoft can help!