Build Your Business:

How to Increase Staff Motivation

By Connie R. Smith, Contributing Writer

May 8, 2018

Sometimes it takes more than a paycheck to encourage employees to come to work. Finding out what motivates workers can not only make them happy, but it also can increase your business’ profits.

Your company’s size will make a difference in the steps you take to add incentive programs. Daytime sporting events or month-long contests are options. But before you try anything, get to know your employees.

I once did consulting work for a company based in Macon, Ga., that had employees working three shifts. I decided to be present at some point for each shift. During one of the shifts, at 3 a.m., I heard the general manager talking to someone. I was told that he came in two to three times a week during this shift to check on things. I heard him ask one employee how his daughter was doing after her surgery, and he talked to another about his mother passing away.

Before he left, we went to his office and talked. When I asked him about his approach, he said, “How can I run this company if I don’t know the needs of the workers? They won’t tell you things unless they trust you.” He sat there for an hour telling me stories of workers that had cancer, two people had recently been involved in car accidents, and five had birthdays that week. He knew the names of their kids, wives and husbands, and he shook each person’s hand while asking if they needed anything. This may not seem realistic to some, but just think about what you could learn not only about your employees, but also your company, if you took the same approach.

There are a lot of things you can do that don’t cost money. Some examples include:

1. Participate in dress-up day. These themed days can apply to many different occasions. Sports days are a big hit with both men and women. Have employees wear their favorite teams’ jerseys and ask everyone to participate in a tailgating carry-in lunch. For NASCAR fans, it can be their favorite driver’s T-shirt and they can decorate their work spaces. For Halloween, you can take pictures of employees in their costumes and display them later so everyone can see them. I once worked at a company that had all 65 of its employees dress up like one of their grandparents. I’ve never laughed so hard.

2. Have your company join an organization. Relay for Life, Habitat for Humanity and your local humane society are great places to start. It helps your community and can make your employees feel good while helping others. You also can make this a “photo op” with the local newspaper to show what your business is doing to help the community.

3. The company’s different departments can stage a logo /slogan contest. Everyone can create a logo design with a saying or motto for their department. Someone from outside the company can judge. For example, your embroidery department can come up with a cone of thread with a mean face, and the tagline: “Embroidery with an Attitude.” This can be expanded to be a contest for the business’ slogan, which can then be added to signage and business cards.

4. Encourage employees to offer ways to improve production or layout. Maybe the shipping and receiving area needs an overhaul, or the warehouse could use some rearranging to make access to items easier.

5. Safety is always an area that could use an update. Ask some employees to form a safety committee, which could find local experts to visit for CPR, fire or weather emergency training. Some one-day classes can even give certifications. And a first-aid class can not only help your employees, but it also brings them together to learn and socialize.

6. Write a detaild cost-information sheet of several items your shop produces. Most workers don’t know the costs of running a business and what it costs to throw away just one sweat shirt. Your cost-information sheet should list the cost of several items, from the time they come in the door to the time they are shipped out. This also should include the average time it take workers in the receiving department to open an item, stock it or direct it to another department; the labor in the decoration area; someone cleaning and packing; the cost of shipping — and even the time it takes to write the order.

To add fun, stage a game of The Price is Right. Comprise a meeting of workers from all departments and have them guess what the total price of an item is when all these aspects are added. Prizes can be awarded to the person with the closest guess. This not only makes employees aware of material costs, but it also makes them excited to win something. You can take it a step further and figure everything by the month and year. For example, the loss of 8 sweat shirts a month costs $120, or a total of $1,440 for the year. That is only one item in one area, but it can cost thousands of dollars across the entire company.

7. Listen to your employees. Don’t dismiss complaints as overreactions. If an employee comes to you, it’s for a reason. Look into the complaint and see if it warrants action. I think most people leave jobs because they think no one will listen to them. It doesn’t cost anything to hear an employee out if he takes the tine and courage to speak up.

Your workers are there to make you money, but it won’t happen if they are not happy. Establish a connection with employees. Don’t end up with a sub-standard company because your employees don’t think they can talk to you or, worse, you won’t listen to them.

Connie R. Smith has been in the embroidery industry for more than 30 years and has been an industry speaker and consultant. She also is an award-winning digitizer. For more information or to comment on this article, email Connie at