Motivating staff on a budget

Because of their very nature, small firms do not have the money to pay huge salaries. So how can you get the best out of your employees on a limited budget?

According to Deryck Banks of Business Link, throwing extra cash at employees is not necessarily the ideal incentive and can even lead to de-motivation; a more sure-fire method is to make them feel valued and part of the business, which can be done in several ways.

The right balance

Top of the list of motivational tools is concession to good work/life balance. This is obviously concerned with being flexible about working hours for parents and those caring for elderly or disabled people, but Banks believes it should be extended to all staff.

‘People really value being able to vary their start and leave times to fit in around their lives and appreciate having time off in lieu for overtime. It also makes them more likely to put in extra hours and work overtime if they know they can leave early on a Friday, for example. All it takes is sitting down with staff and talking to them like adults.’

Banks is also a big fan of investing in good management. ‘Behaviours breed behaviours,’ he believes, ‘so good managers set an example and create good motivation among employees.’

Furthermore, staff who feel valued and part of the business are likely to be more passionate about their work as they will see themselves as an integral part of a bigger picture. Applying for the Investors In People standard means having to demonstrate that staff feel valued, which can lead to better management of a business.

See also: How to create a happy and motivated workplace

‘Lots of employers see staff as numbers, as a nuisance and a financial liability,’ says Banks, ‘but it would be far better to treat them as an asset to a successful business.’

Other options worth considering are free or discounted gym membership, personalised health and fitness programmes and employee share schemes. However, Banks offers one caveat on the latter, citing a case (albeit an unusual one) where an employee’s shares did so well, he was able to retire early on the proceeds.

The virtues of staff motivation

Andrew Boakes, operations director of Southern Salads, has good reason to extol the virtues of staff motivation and, in particular, Investors in People, which the business has been using for seven years. In the past three years, the provider of salads to the food industry has doubled turnover from £10 million to £20 million, which Boakes attributes largely to the committed staff.

‘We started offering continual training – internal and external – to all staff from day one, and passing certain training requirements brings pay rises. We also offer accommodation in the local area.’

However, with a diverse ethnic workforce, it is an understanding of the employees that brings greatest rewards. Boakes and other directors even spent a month in Nepal (where many of the staff hail from) getting to know more about their culture.

Back in the UK, religious holidays are observed with celebrations and, if practical, by closing the factory as for Christmas or Easter. With other social events organised throughout the year, Boakes believes all employees feel part of what the company is doing.

‘We have the most committed people you could ask for. Staff turnover is zero. They’re all so keen to see us succeed they’ll go the extra mile. Their pride in the business means it’s like having mini-owners working everywhere.’

Leslie Copeland

Leslie Copeland

Leslie was made Editor for Growth Company Investor magazine in 2000, then headed up the launch of Business XL magazine, and then became Editorial Director in 2007 for the online and print publication portfolio...