The workplace is no place for zombies.
If your employees merely put in their hours without a hint of enthusiasm for their work, it's a sign that your business has taken a wrong turn. An office devoid of life doesn't just sap morale; it runs the risk of withering away.
To avoid such a fate, "make sure that you put your people first," says Pete Khanna, CEO of TrackVia, a fast-growing Denver, Colo.-based online database company. While you may not satisfy every need, nor will employees like every decision, a policy of open communication goes a long way toward engendering trust and loyalty in your workforce.
An engaged, productive workforce, says Khanna, "revolves around not what you do but with whom you do it." Here are his tips to help bring back that spark to your business.
Morale and Productivity Boosters
1. Offer Compelling Perks
If the only incentive you offer is a steady paycheck, don't expect your employees to deliver anything but the bare minimum in return.
Khanna suggests benefits like subsidized athletic programs to help active workers stay fit. Instead of a sea of me-too office furniture, help your workers to do their best thinking on their feet with standing desks. Cover smartphone costs, a nice little perk that helps employees keep a little more of their hard-earned income.
Consider an open vacation policy. For traditionalists this idea may seem ripe for abuse, but in Khanna's experience, most employees police themselves and are considerate of their colleagues when taking time off.
2. Indulge in Cravings
Fluorescent lighting, processed air, the ever-present hum of office equipment: many companies add weak coffee and a meagerly stocked break room to complete the soul-sucking experience.
Don't make your employees endure that. Keep the caffeine flowing and the minds sharp with free coffee. Reward employees that survive another harrowing morning of getting the kids to school on time and dodging morning rush-hour traffic with healthy snacks and breakfast items.
Find ways to reconnect outside of work. Mix things up with a monthly happy hour.
Socializing in a non-work context helps renew the bonds of camaraderie and friendship that often form at the office. The result, reports Khanna, is a tight-knight workforce that excels both in and out of the workplace.
4. Don't Keep Accomplishments a Secret
If your employees reach a goal or land a big customer, make sure everyone hears about it. Make it a point to publicly acknowledge a job well done.
Besides the recognition, it communicates to employees that the company values their contributions. "Reward with experiences," suggests Khanna. When that opportunity -- and finances -- allows, host a bash and offer your workers other opportunities to enjoy life on the company's dime.
Ultimately, workers expect their paychecks to reflect their hard work. One way of keeping spirits high is to "make sure they're rewarded financially or with equity," he adds.
5. Hire Wisely
"You have to have a stringent hiring policy," says Khanna. Oftentimes it takes just one worker who is a poor fit for your organization to bring your business down. In a small business, where a single employee can be a whole department unto himself, it's particularly important to hire right.
One way to avoid this problem is with a "cultural fit interview" and a "collaboration interview," which involves meeting with employees outside of the team the prospect hopes to join. How well employees interact with other business units speaks volumes about their ability to keep the channel of communications open and work harmoniously for the benefit of the company as a whole.
Pedro Hernandez is a contributing editor at Small Business Computing. Follow him on Twitter @ecoINSITE.
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