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Chin up – there are 101 ways to motivate staff in startups

We reached out to a wide range of startup owners to find out how they handle productivity and motivate staff on a day-to-day basis.
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It can be hard to motivate staff in a startup business, but here are some tips to helping staff feel more invested.

We have previously explored the difficulties involved in recruiting talented staff for early stage businesses – competing for talent with larger businesses that can offer more immediate benefits and higher salaries can mean facing an uphill challenge.

What’s more, there are often some tough times at the beginning of a business’ story. Finding funding, building up a client base, earning a reputation – it’s hard work, and sometimes things don’t go to plan. How can founders keep morale up during these trying times?

We reached out to a wide range of startup owners to find out how they handle productivity on a day-to-day basis.

Top tips to motivate staff and boost productivity:

• Keep the lines of communication open, and show that you value employee’s opinions

“Startups are born of dreams – boosting morale and keeping productivity high is about selling your dream not only to your investors and customers but to the people who work for you on a daily basis. As long as you give them enough insight to be passionate about the product and reinforce their responsibility in making it a success – then the rest should follow,” said Sebastian Lewis, CEO at Mettrr.
  
“You absolutely do not want to create an environment that’s overly hierarchical. A small business is too close-knit for an ‘us and them’ atmosphere. It won’t stimulate good morale and productivity in a business if decisions are made behind closed doors.”
 
Show that your employees are valued by building in rewards systems

Simon Andrew, insight and engagement director at Benefax, claims that by making employee rewards and recognitions visible company-wide, and even gamifying the experience, can pay off

“Games give us a more tangible purpose and target than just our everyday duties. So, beating yesterday’s/last month’s/last year’s targets/scores helps to increase productivity, as does friendly competition with colleagues.

“Games also fulfil our desire for increased competence. Working towards a tough (but realistic) goal which pushes our boundaries allows us to be completely immersed in the task and leads to increased productivity,” he explained.

Get the workplace right to motivate staff

This can be tricky when you’re starting out and budgets are tight, but simple things like making sure the heating is comfortable and there is easy access to tea and coffee can go a long way.

“Having surveyed a quarter of a million employees worldwide, we know that at least half of offices in the UK are not fit for purpose, meaning that the infrastructure in place does not support people in the roles they have been employed to do,” said Chris Moriarty, MD for UK & Ireland at Leesman.

“For a small business, the workplace shouldn’t be an afterthought. And, even with limited budgets, having an understanding and appreciation for the work your employees are undertaking will help you create an effective work environment. Part of this involves providing a space that allows for a balance of concentration and collaboration.”

Work out which management style helps motivate staff

For some, this means keeping the workplace a laid-back space where employees are free to experiment, innovate, make mistakes and learn from them. For others, it means keeping to time sheets and investing in project management tools.

“Productivity doesn’t mean working at 100 per cent efficiency all the time. At Forever Beta, we give team members 10-30 per cent away from their core responsibilities to think about the big, complex challenges facing our (and our clients’) business,” said Robin Gadsby, founder and CEO of creative communications company Forever Beta.

“We believe that small businesses and startups can motivate team members by encouraging failure. It’s only when people are given the freedom to experiment – and get things wrong – that they learn, get excited by their roles, and then innovate.”

Offering benefits where you can

Even things like training an employee on different programmes – can help morale, as they can feel they are getting something back from their role.

“Employees are putting more focus on access to development opportunities at work, so setting up training or mentoring schemes is a sure way to boost productivity by raising staff skill levels, while also boosting morale by showing employees that your business cares about their future,” said Richard Dennys, CEO at Webgains.

One last thing…

One tip that is worth remembering above all is this: get to know your staff. Especially for small teams, getting to know how people operate, what makes them tick and what spurs them on is crucial.

It also means that, if the day should come where morale is starting to drop, you will spot the warning signs early enough to do something about it.

This article is part of a wider campaign called the Scale-up Hub, a section of Real Business that provides essential advice and inspiration on taking your business to the next level. It’s produced in association with webexpenses and webonboarding, a fast-growing global organisation that provides cloud-based software services that automate expenses management and streamline the employee onboarding process.

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About Author

Letitia Booty

Letitia Booty is a special projects journalist for Real Business. She has a BA in english literature from the University of East Anglia, and since graduating she has written for a variety of trade titles. Most recently, she was a reporter at SME magazine.

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