bCentral Home
Your Online Business Center

Harness your people power

John Herbert shares the wisdom gained from years of motivating employees

After business ideas and strategy, the most vital issue in the successful operation of a business is the quality and the motivation of the workforce. 40 years of retailing experience have shown John Herbert that it is often the most neglected area and one that provides the greatest opportunity.

A successful US business author, Steven Covey, comments that the difference in performance between a well-motivated employee and one who is not motivated is as high as 500%. Whilst I would not endorse such a difference, in my view there is at least 100% difference.

The very first essential qualities for a manager are integrity and honesty. Your employees will forgive you for any weakness you may have, providing you treat them fairly.

Energy, enthusiasm, dedication and trust are the necessary elements to inspire people to excellence. When dealing with people, I have always striven to win without anybody losing.

Zero tolerance

As Regional President for the world's second largest retailing company, I learnt 'zero tolerance' for those associates who did not perform and for those who were not fully committed to the company, irrespective of how much they might have contributed to the company in the past.

Hard, yes, but there is no alternative. Everybody in the company must strive for excellence. If things then go wrong, they must look at what is wrong and not whose fault it is, then put it right and move forward.

Try to make work a happy place to be. If your employees can honestly say the quality of their time spent at work is as high as that spent in their private life, then you have won.

Get away from the 'minute mentality' to that of getting the job done exceptionally well. Does it really matter if the job takes a little longer if work feels like a good place to be?

The utmost respect

I never cease to be amazed how rarely employees are allowed to make their own decisions, although very often they know best. After all, they are doing the job. Any successful business must delegate responsibility.

Quote�Communicate with your people as much as you can.�End Quote

In many businesses, the top manager carries a heavy load. Share the load: give every employee a little 'sack' of responsibility. You will be amazed how motivated they are and how much lighter your load will be.

Communicate with your people as much as you can, keep them informed. Make them feel important to the business. They are!

Finally, treat every single person with the utmost respect. The cleaner should be treated no differently from the manager. For 17 years, I managed a retail company with 1,200 employees and I knew every single one by name. Many managers said that it was very good. No, it was not, it was just pure common sense. After all, what is more important in my business than the people who work for my company?

What next?

Get advice to keep you employees motivated

Essential Business Guide

This article features in the Essential Business Guide, the 'single source' handbook for UK small businesses and startup companies, published in June 2005 in association with Microsoft. For more information on the guide, and to buy your copy, visit www.essentialbusinessguide.co.uk

Sign into Microsoft Small Business+ for free web-based training and software support.

sign in

About John Herbert

John Herbert has worked in retailing for over 40 years and was Sainsbury's first store director back in 1977. For 17 years he was Managing Director of a DIY / garden centre chain in Germany, then became Divisional President of Home Depot in the USA. John is Managing Director of the German Home Centre Retailing Association and General Secretary of the European Home Centre Association.

Security information

Find a local Microsoft Small Business Specialist to help with your IT needs

Microsoft Small Business SpecialistMore info >

Do you plan to implement Office 2007 or Windows Vista?

Do you plan to implement Office 2007 or Windows Vista?

Free business newsletters - subscribe now

Our free newsletters are packed full of business advice and ideas - plus all the latest news

Security information

Get the latest bulletins and updates direct from Microsoft