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Grow your business

4 ways to motivate employees in the new year


Kelly Kearsley

| Dec 04, 2017

Dec 04, 2017



Updated: 04/07/20

This story is part of the Chase Guide to Powering Your Business in 2018. It is brought to you by Chase Business Banking.

The new year is a time for reflection and setting goals—both for yourself, and your business. But as you think of ways to ramp up sales, find potential new clients, and plot hiring needs, you should also consider strategies to nurture one of your most essential existing resources: your current employees.

A study conducted by University of North Carolina's Kenan-Flagler Business School found that organizations with above average employee engagement experienced 2.3 times more revenue growth over a three-year period than companies with average employee engagement.

"If the first thing you think about every day isn't the well-being of the people in the trenches, then you're not thinking about the well-being of your business," says Paul Hirsch, co-owner of Studio1337, a web design studio he co-founded in 2004.

Moreover, while large firms often rely on big raises and perks to motivate their teams, successful business owners say that some of the best ways to engage and inspire employees rely on the flexibility and personal engagement that are hallmarks of a smaller company. So you can use the five strategies below to motivate your employees— no matter what your budget looks like for the coming year.

1. Allow for growth opportunities

When it comes to true motivation and engagement, money and materials are fleeting, says Hirsch. You'll get a bigger boost from finding out what your employees enjoy doing and find opportunities for them to do more of it—even if it means they will eventually need to move on to a different career. According to a report from the Harvard Business Review (HBR), managers who help employees develop their strengths are more than twice as likely to engage their team members.

For example, Hirsch has had team members say they want to get into book illustrating—one even told him he'd someday like to start a competing agency. "We accept that people don't remain in one place forever," he says. "We want to help them develop the skills they want so they stay inspired." Together, they crafted a plan to allow him to develop those skills.

2. Embrace new ideas

If a job feels monotonous or uninspired, it's easy to check out mentally. Ross Cohen, co-founder of BeenVerified.com, a background check company with 52 employees, strives to foster a culture that provides employees the space and freedom to experiment.

"If our people feel like it's too much of a hassle to try a new approach to doing things, then we will all suffer," says Cohen. To encourage out of the box thinking, his team has eliminated long meetings and discussions about whether to attempt something new; instead, the vast majority of ideas are simply given a quick thumbs-up.

3. Communicate on a personal level

The HBR study found that businesses with highly engaged employees focus on communication and transparency. In a smaller firm, you're more likely to have the opportunity to not only discuss professional performance and company goals with employees, but also keep up with what's happening with them on a personal level.

Liat Tzoubari, founder of the online home décor boutique Sevensmith, makes a point of touching base with each of her employees weekly. "I check-in on how they're doing both personally and professionally, reminding them that I appreciate their work and taking time out of my week to have a one-on-one conversation, coffee or quick chat with them," she says. That way, she says, her employees feel as if they are genuinely cared about and have a voice that is heard.

4. Employ your flexibility

Small businesses have a built-in advantage when it comes to getting creative with culture and work-life related perks. You might more easily be able to institute work-from-home Fridays, for example, allow employees to bring their dogs to work or provide more flexible schedules.

Dr. Gena Bofshever, owner of Dr. Gena Chiropratic in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida, likes to mix it up when it comes to employee perks. If her team hits a group goal, she may take them all out for a massage. Or surprise them with concert tickets or lunch at a favorite restaurant. So think about what will make your staff feel most valued—that what will turn out top performers for the next 12 months.