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Motivating staff

Ways to make your employees more productive

No person is an island. Your company will stand or fall because of the people around you. Get the best out of your staff and you'll get the best out of your business. Gone are the days where a business owner who reckons 'I pay them, what else can they want?' will prosper.

Find out what they want

Motivating your staff doesn't have to mean inviting a David Brent soundalike to stand in front of them murdering 'Simply the best'! Apprentice star Ruth Badger (right) has a characteristically direct answer for anyone wanting to know how they influence their staff to work even harder or smarter. "Want to know how to motivate your staff? Ask them!" she says.

"Every company is about the people before it's about the profits. Set clear standards and targets and work with your team so that they understand those standards and help them reach the targets," advises Ruth, who's now at the helm of Ruth Badger Consultancy, offering training and guidance in all aspects of performance management.

"Identify ways to make them feel they are valued. Tell them when they are doing a good job. Don't just pick up on the negative - put yourself in their shoes - would you want to work for a boss if all they did was nit-pick?"

See how Microsoft small business solutions can help you work anywhere you want, keeping you motivated!

Recognise success

At Bristol-based employment consultancy Premier Employer Solutions, founder and director Ian Rummels (right) says that motivating their staff has been a major factor in the company's rapid growth. Formed in 2002, the company now has 25 employees. "Establishing a motivated and committed workforce has been one of our highest priorities since the business began," he says.

"As a specialist employment consultancy providing services such as implementing the childcare voucher scheme and the Investors in People standard for our clients, it's essential to practice what we preach and offer similar services to our staff."

"It's important to recognise that staff are motivated in different ways, and often the intangible benefits of a workplace can be equally important. For example, we take time out to recognise our successes, to socialise together, and actively encourage a culture where people can be themselves."

"As is the nature of our business, we are always investigating new solutions to help clients, and this means we are always looking at schemes which might provide motivation to our own staff."

"Childcare is a particular area we are concentrating on because there are many working parents and employers should be sympathetic to the fact that childcare has become a very expensive service and is now a real concern for working parents."

"We currently offer childcare vouchers, a pension scheme and life assurance. Equally important to us is working in a way to support a healthy work-life balance."

Ian outlines two initial basic steps for keeping staff motivated:

Evaluate how effective existing benefits and motivational tools are. Where do they need to be improved?

If necessary, make the benefits more flexible. Offer employees the opportunity to select their own benefits package to suit their own particular circumstances. Parents might choose for example to take a longer holiday.

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Don't forget you!

According to leading executive coach Gabriella Goddard (right), it can also be easy to think too much about motivating those around you, forgetting about your own needs.

Keep yourself motivated by:

Staying fit to ensure energy levels remain high

Being passionate about the business and constantly reinforcing the company vision

Creating time and space to brainstorm on new opportunities for business growth

Maintaining a healthy work/life balance allowing sufficient time to be with family, friends and outside interests.

Now back to the spirit of David Brent. Isn't motivation sorted by the odd 'team building' exercise? Walking over coals perhaps or a weekend in the countryside climbing assault courses?

Gabriella, author of Gulp! Seven Days to Master Fear and Face Any Challenge (Penguin) warns: "The classic mistake, is to throw people into a 'team building' exercise and hope that solves everything. It doesn't. Staff return into the same environment with the same problems."

Tackle the "demotivators"

Also, advises Gabriella, take care to tackle the following 'demotivators':

Negativity, often caused by gossip and lack of clarity around the business's future

Blame, where everyone points the finger at someone else when things go pear shaped

Stress, sometimes the pace of business can be too fast to sustain

Lack of vision, with staff not having a direction or hope

What next?

Work-life balance: an impossible dream or within your reach? Find out here.

See how it's done by looking at the FT's best workplaces survey report.

Take a free course on managing employee performance and communicating effectively with colleagues on Small Business+ (registration required).

Find out more about Investors in People.

Read business advice from the other Apprentice contestant, Alexa Tilley.

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

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