8 Smart Ways to Motivate Employees in Q1

When COVID-19 restrictions began in spring 2020, experts predicted that nothing would be the same for quite some time. As the first quarter of 2021 rolls around, it’s quite apparent this is still true, especially when it comes to working with and motivating employees.

Whether your employees work from home or come into the shop every day (or a combo of both), you can’t afford not to keep your team motivated. Just know that now you’ll have to motivate your employees a bit differently than in the past.

Here are eight ideas to motivate your employees in 2020.

Start with what’s already working for your shop

If you’ve never really prioritized employee morale before, now is the time to start. So many people feel worn down and stressed between COVID-19, the recent election cycle, and the economic downturn. So, if you can give staff recognition for accepting assignments with a good attitude, working hard, and delivering above expectations, you’ll motivate them to keep doing that hard work.

For example, recognize employees who’ve made it a point to go the extra mile for your clients by giving them a shout out on social media, a certificate of appreciation, or a gift card. This doesn’t just help your great employees know how much they mean to your shop’s success. It also inspires other employees to work even harder on improving their performance.

Another bonus is that actively recognizing employees can significantly reduce turnover. With COVID-19 making so many people skittish about going into work and the difficulty of finding experienced employees, you’ll want to hold onto your good team members.

Communicate with your employees

Studies show that employees like to be recognized. But that doesn’t always mean they want to be recognized in front of everyone. Many appreciate or prefer a simple pat on the back in a one-on-one chat from their manager.

You’ve probably seen the quote, “People don’t leave companies; they leave bosses.” The reason? Usually, it’s communication issues. Understand that your staff can only meet the expectations you set for them. They need to know your shop goals, how they fit in the big picture, and what they can do to help your firm, and more immediately—how to help you!

When you’re communicating with your employees, you can learn what really motivates them. You also get to be transparent about what you need and how that employee helps meet that need.

One cool way to keep in constant communication with employees working remotely is to utilize platforms like Voxer, Slack, or Microsoft Teams. You can use these platforms to send an employee a quick, direct message or even voice recordings about a job well done and how much you appreciate their hard work. Slack even lets you create custom memes, which might be a fun way to uplift your employee’s spirits too.

Don’t be afraid to change things up

Let’s face it: 2020 has been nonstop drama, which has burned many people out. The constant news stories about COVID-19, the election, and every other bad thing happening in the world have led many people to fall into a negative rut. Studies show that the brains of people who suffer from burnout show the same levels of damage as those who’ve experienced some form of trauma.

Recent studies indicate that our brains need a break, and when we do that, it charges up the neuroplasticity in our brains to give us the jump or motivation we need to push forward.

So how can you break up the monotony of work in your shop? Take your meetings outside and let everyone get a dose of fresh air. Change up your team’s scheduled routines. Swap the people in charge of specific projects. However, make sure you talk with your team and discuss ways to add a little change into the mix safely. You don’t want to change things arbitrarily, which may end up causing more discomfort for your employees.

Make an effort to connect personally with your remote team

For many people who run decorated-apparel shops and other businesses, the pandemic created a disconnect among your team. Some employees work at the shop, some are exclusively at home, and others work a hybrid schedule.

If you have a remote team that only communicates to discuss work projects, you’re missing out on what motivates your staff. When you have Zoom meetings and jump straight into the work agenda, you could alienate staff, who think you don’t care about their personal issues and struggles. It’s essential to take time at the beginning of a meeting to check-in and ask how everyone is doing.

Setting aside just five to 10 minutes of your meeting, you set a tone that you see your employees as people and not robots. Many people have expressed a desire to go back to work in the office just for the social interaction. This can hurt the culture of your company.

If you haven’t tried it yet, consider using Fond. This is a social recognition feed where employees can feel appreciated and connect.

Make work a game with a little friendly competition

Games can foster a fun environment and motivate employees, so try gamifying your tasks. It doesn’t have to be elaborate, either. You can easily set up a simple sales competition, where the top salespeople get a prize. For example, see who can get the most customers to fill out a customer satisfaction survey. That way, you can gather data about your workplace and the job you’re doing with customer service and also give your team something fun to be a part of in the process. You can also apply this idea to motivate employees to accomplish milestones or reach their commission goals.

One size doesn’t fit all

One of the most critical aspects of managing a team is getting to know each person individually and understanding what drives them. Everyone has different needs, so it also stands to reason that not everyone is motivated by the same things.

Some employees need supervision and constant reminders about what you expect. Others see this as intrusive, preferring that you trust them with a little more independence to do their job. It’s important to be somewhat flexible with individual employees’ needs, so you can figure out the best and most efficient way for them to get things done.

Offer support, training, and tips

A lot of screen-printing shops and other online businesses are experiencing a change in their operations. Sometimes, it’s not even just one change, but several all at once, which can be incredibly scary for employees.

As mentioned earlier, constant communication will help you get to know your employees better. But even more importantly, this will also help you develop the instincts you’ll need to know if someone is experiencing challenges with these new systems and operations. If you’re using a new online ordering system, make sure that your employees are thoroughly trained on it. Also, let them know that you’re there to lend support and tips if needed.

Watch to see which employees are struggling and go to them first, instead of expecting them to ask for help. This proactive approach will show that you’re paying attention, and you’re supportive. If you can share work hacks or give additional training time to those who need it, you’ll create a more positive work environment and develop more happy employees.

Bring back the fun

Sometimes, knowing that work could surprise you with fun can be motivation in and of itself. Here are a few ideas to create some fun for your team:

  • Select a “boss” for the day. This could be a monthly or quarterly event that would let the employee announce a casual day, sit in on a management meeting and provide input, or even make a speech to the company.
  • Create your own apparel and give some to each employee. Don’t think of these as work uniforms. Make it fun clothes like T-shirts or hoodies that can either be worn as part of the everyday look or just on certain occasions to help foster team spirit.
  • Throw a themed lunch. Have a company event in a nearby park or an outdoor restaurant area. If you have several employees and plan to go outdoors, call ahead and schedule a couple of different food trucks so you can enjoy lunch with your co-workers outside in the fresh air. Sit on the benches (or pull up a blanket) and talk with your employees about things outside of work to show you care about their personal lives.

2020 has been such a game-changer in many ways that businesses need to start thinking more about these things. Finding ways to motivate your staff can be a fun process and give you a nice mental break from your daily routine. So, as we head toward 2021, start brainstorming some new ideas today.

James Andres S&S

James Andres

James Andres is the content manager for S&S Activewear.

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