Kevin Gardner on how to keep everyone on track.
Reading time: 4 minutes
Although you’ve hand-picked your staff and know that you’ve got a great set of people, the bottom line is that it can be hard to keep things lively in the workplace.
People tend to get bored with routine and the daily slog starts to begin. As their boss, you know that the team is better than this.
How can you motivate your team and increase engagement in the workplace if you notice everyone starting to wilt?
1. Be nice and promote a positive environment
As time has passed and the world has seen the harmful effects of bullying, the culture of positivity is spreading not only in schools but in the workplace too.
Sometimes the best way to support employee engagement is to promote an environment of kindness.
No, this doesn’t necessarily mean holding hands and singing Kumbaya in the breakroom, but it’s easy to promote a positive culture in a few different ways:
- Avoid swearing. This seems like it should go without saying in a professional environment, but even in small, close-knit businesses you should avoid using foul language. The boundaries between ‘acceptable’ and ‘offensive’ are blurred as employees curse among themselves and an HR nightmare can become a reality in a hurry. Remember the grandma rule: If your best friend’s great-grandmother was visiting, would you say that in front of her?
- Don’t participate in gossip and encourage your employees to do the same. Understand the difference between excited buzz about Nick’s wedding this weekend and catty speculation about what Susan will wear to the reception. There is no benefit in talking about somebody behind their back, and a wise woman once said that if they’re gossiping to you then they’re gossiping about you.
- Follow the golden rule and treat everyone how you want to be treated. It’s so easy to be nice to people, and respect breeds respect; if you treat your employees with kindness, they’re likely to reciprocate. Positivity doesn’t have to be cupcakes and rainbows all the time. Encourage a kindness culture by simply being a decent human being and your staff will follow your lead. Nobody wants their business to be associated with a negative vibe.
Positivity doesn’t have to be cupcakes and rainbows all the time. Encourage a kindness culture by simply being a decent human being and your staff will follow your lead
2. Allow flexibility
It is said that good help is hard to find, which you can appreciate on an almost religious level now that you are a small business owner. Once you’ve found great employees, hanging on to them and keeping them happy is another way to increase employee engagement. Lessen the rigidity a little bit as the boss:
- Be understanding. Sometimes life gets in the way: Kids get sick, tyres go flat and dogs go missing. Yes, it can be annoying to have to find emergency coverage at that moment, but if someone’s having a rough day already then a snarky comment from their boss can make the day even worse. Take it for what it is and do what you need to do to get the situation covered.
- Relax the dress code on Fridays. Draw boundaries, of course, but allow jeans and sweatshirts to pave the way for a great weekend. A chilled-out dress code can do wonders for a staff morale.
- Switch up the daily routine. It can be easy to fall down a black hole of same-old, same-old, but that gets monotonous after a while. Give employees the freedom to take on projects or tasks of their own, or allow them to try job shadowing someone in another department for a day. Switching up the norm can be exciting.
All this being said, don’t allow yourself to be taken advantage of. You are, after all, the boss, and there’s only so much flexibility you can realistically give before you have to start holding them accountable. Be understanding to a point – but know where the line between understanding and doormat is washed away.
3. Discourage idle hands
If you start to notice that more status updates from your staff tend to happen during the workday, this is a sign that they have too much free time on their hands. Keep them busy throughout the day with real, significant tasks that will help them feel valued and appreciated once they have been completed. Don’t give them mindless ‘busywork’ to fill their days; try things like assigning a new project or setting a goal to meet by the end of the quarter. A busy day goes by so much faster than a boring one, and everyone likes to feel like they’ve done something meaningful at the end of the day.
When you feel like employee engagement is a problem, think of ways to shake it up at the workplace. You want your staff to be happy and content at work so that you can keep them as long as you can, and mixing up the day can help to accomplish that goal.
About the author
Kevin Gardner is a business consultant for InnovateBTS.