5 Ways to Keep Employees Motivated and Challenged

Motivated employees congratulating each other
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One of the most valuable skills you can hone as a small business manager is the ability to engage and challenge the people you employ. When you hire the right team and manage them well, the result is a workforce characterized by outstanding performance and growth. On the other hand, failure to motivate your employees can lead to unwelcome turnover and generally lead your business is in a constant state of flux and chaos.

To keep everyone motivated, small business owners can encourage employees to participate as partners in the business. It doesn't mean they have joint ownership in the company, but it does mean that everyone who works for you is personally invested in the company's success and growth.

When employees are respected for the talents and skills they bring to the business, it has a motivating effect that can be contagious. It builds a sense of partnership among coworkers. Other hallmarks of a motivating manager include building trust among employees at all levels, including workers in decisions (especially decisions that call for change directly affecting job duties), and maintaining open communication.

Challenging employees starts with understanding the different factors that influence each individual's workday. Once you've got that down, you can be the boss who challenges everyone without stressing out anyone. Here are five ways to get started.

Provide Consistent Feedback

Start by letting your employees know how you feel about their performance at work. Praise is a great motivator, but constructive criticism also pushes employees to make improvements in areas that could use a little more attention.

Don't wait for an annual review. Frequently offer praise and criticism because it communicates that you care about the business, assigned tasks, and employees.

Communicate Problems and Issues Affecting the Company

Sometimes the best solutions don't come from managers and owners at all. Many times, they come from the employees you've got working in the trenches. For that reason, it's a good idea to keep everyone informed when problems and issues surface.

Again, trust is the key. Sometimes you have to resist the urge to protect employees from the hardships that come with small business ownership. Though you might be tempted to do this with the best of intentions, withholding important information can have a demoralizing effect on staff.

Ask for Suggestions and Solutions

If you give feedback, you should also be willing to receive it. Let employees offer their ideas for fixing systems that aren't working and developing new programs that you need as the business takes off. Challenge them to make the small business even better.

Whenever Possible, Let Employees Define Their Duties

This one could sound scary at first, but it's not. When you bring on a new hire, they understand that certain essential tasks must be done (and done well) for them to remain employed.

But what about those special tasks that pop up? Need someone to volunteer for a charity event, design a storefront display, or do some painting? Ask for volunteers and then delegate. People will be happier about taking on non-routine assignments when it's something in which they have an interest.

Don't Take Advantage of Employees

Challenge your employees without any reward or encouragement, and they probably won't stick around for long. That doesn't mean money is your only option. Using non-monetary incentives like flex-time, employee discounts, and recognition programs (such as employee of the month) are ways you can reward a job well done.

Ultimately, employees bear some responsibility for staying motivated and challenged within their positions. As the boss, your job is to create an environment that encourages and rewards hard work and innovation of the people who keep your business functioning from day-to-day.