Employees. Don't you just love them? Or do you hate them?
Almost all businesses with employees struggle with problems such as absenteeism, low productivity, high turnover and low morale.
What are the reasons behind these behaviors, and what can be done about them?
Employee performance is a function of ability and motivation. Assuming that employees have the ability to perform, the only obstacle left is to motivate them to maximize that ability.
First, forget across-the-board pay raises. Everyone wants a raise, but the real superstar employees should receive more money as a justified reward. Doing otherwise rewards below-average employees for nonperformance. Better than a monetary reward is a simple "good job" when it is warranted. No one wants to hear from the boss only when he is going to get lambasted.
Employee motivation begins with the hiring process. Don't overlook candidates who are "overqualified." Sure, some of these star workers may be using the job as a stepping stone to bigger opportunities, but isn't one year of excellent work from a good employee better than five years of bad work from a bad employee?
Employees must clearly know what is expected of them if they are to perform to their fullest capabilities. Thus, good job descriptions are required. The manager should discuss them thoroughly with each employee.
Respect is a key ingredient in motivation. Employees who feel they are being mistreated will be less willing to contribute their best efforts to the business and often can become bothersome with unwarranted absences, tardiness, and disruptive behavior that could result in a costly workplace lawsuit.
Employee motivation is supported by the manager's being a positive role model. A manager who treats customers and employees with dignity and respect is more likely to have employees who do the same thing with the people they deal with.
Often, employees are bored by their work. Boredom leads the best employees to look elsewhere for more challenging opportunities and causes good employees to become mediocre.
There is an answer to boredom: challenge these people! Give them responsibility, accountability and freedom to make decisions. Most people will rise to a challenge.
Employees who are more involved in the operations of the business will develop a feeling of ownership. Employees will start acting and thinking like they own the business. They will begin to see that they hurt when the business performs poorly.
David Dunn Atkins is a business consultant with the Georgia Small Business Development Center in Albany. To reach the Augusta office, call 737-1790.
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