Guest blogger and trusted business associate, Bill Boyer is the President of Tidewater CEO, a consulting/coaching organization for small company CEO’s. He can be reached at bill@tidewaterceo.com or 757-233-2577.

Tidewater CEORight now, this is probably not a problem for many businesses.  But business conditions will get better, and as business improves it will be critical that we keep our better employees.  Do not ignore your stars.  If you ignore them too long they will go somewhere else where they will be appreciated.

Many business owners think that money is the primary motivator.  Surprisingly, in the list of reasons for working for a business, money ranks number seven.  Of course, if you are paying much below the market rate for your industry and area, money will be the primary issue.

There are many factors besides money that have to do with the “quality of the job.”

Some of the  important factors are a solid promotion path, the ability to be promoted, and being appreciated for their contribution to the company.  There are many other important factors that also influence your employee’s satisfaction with your workplace.

First, make them a part of the organization.  Make absolutely sure that they know the goals of your company and make your company’s goals a part of their goals.  Let them know what is going on.  You will be surprised how much they already know from just observing and listening to comments made by you and your close associates.  While you may not want to give them all the details of your finances, give them general information about your financial condition.  Let them know about sales opportunities and/or new products. We live in a very “small world” and your employees may have contacts you would never have imagined.  If you foresee challenges or opportunities, let them know about these.  They may have ideas that can help. Ask them for suggestions.

Afford them training to improve their knowledge and usefulness to the company.  There are many inexpensive courses for the PC, sales training, or managerial development.  Sending your people to training tells them “you are important to the organization.”  Training plays a huge role in employee development and satisfaction.  If you never train, you are capping their career.  Your most ambitious employees will figure this out and leave, and you will be left with your weaker employees.  Do not just promise training:  at the beginning of each year, plan and budget for training.

Give your employees reasonable working conditions and the tools to do their job.  Keep the workplace clean, be sure supplies are available, and reduce the noise level whenever possible.  Make sure that the employee’s equipment (computer, fax, printer, or other equipment) is adequate for the employee to work efficiently and effectively.  If the equipment is not adequate, do what you can to replace it.  A poor work environment is a true demotivator

Develop some simple reward systems for the well-performing employees.  You may not be able to afford a pay increase at this time, but you can still give them an extra day off or a gift certificate for a movie or dinner with their spouse or friend.  Even if you cannot give these rewards, be sure to compliment him or her verbally when others can hear it.  Everyone likes praise and wants to know they are appreciated.

Get to know your employees.  It is amazing the results you will get from finding out a little something about their family and outside activities.

Let them hear from their external and internal customers.  Let outside customers speak with employees about their satisfaction with the company; share complimentary letters with the employee.  Encourage your employees to thank each other for their efforts.

A true story:  Melissa had been working very hard to find a very talented employee who could help her take her company to the next level.  She was elated that she was able to hire George by out-recruiting a much larger firm. George mentioned during the interview and after getting hired that he needed to improve his computer skills.  Melissa was not comfortable training George on computers nor did she want to spend the money for outside training, so she totally ignored the request.  In addition, while Melissa was very pleased with George’s performance, she never gave him any positive feed back.  Eventually George quit, citing a variety of reasons.  He felt that he was losing the opportunity to take on additional responsibility because of the lack of computer training.  Also, the lack of feedback was quite disappointing.  By investing in a few computer courses and some management development and giving George the positive feedback he was due, Melissa could have avoided this very costly error.

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