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John Sollars

MD And Founder

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CEO Insight:’s John Sollars on staff engagement


Keeping staff motivated in the workplace can be difficult enough, but when money is tight and you can’t dole out bonuses and expensive gifts, the task can present even more difficulties.

The managing director of John Sollars talks to our sister site about his strategy for ensuring that personnel stay engaged.

Over the decades I’ve run various businesses and managed small and larger teams, so here are 10 motivational methods that work for me:
Tip 1: Atmosphere is key
I started my business from home, and I still think of everyone as family. But even in a target-driven environment with horrendous deadlines and multi-tasking to-die-for, you can create a happy atmosphere. Whether it is a change in lighting, comfortable office chairs, table football in the staff kitchen, music that the whole office enjoys, or just  you, the boss, walking around with a smile on your face, you’ll be amazed at the increased performance levels.
One thing that works in my office is we have cooking competitions each month to encourage bonding and friendly rivalry.
Tip 2: Working conditions
Working conditions can hugely influence the atmosphere and I cannot place a value on the environment your employees work in. Even if you can’t afford the best technology, things that look smart can have just as good an effect on motivation. A clean company kitchen and well-maintained office or warehouse areas all have a subliminal impact.
Even before my company was successful I made sure that working conditions were top notch, and that my staff knew they would be taken care of. A significant part of my recent revenue has been spent kitting out the office and facilities for my employees. It’s amazing how a new carpet can make people happier!
Tip 3: Involve your employees
Whilst “Too many cooks spoil the broth”, input from different areas can be invaluable, especially in a heavily departmentalised business. We have no secrets at Even if not involved with a decision, employees can have a say and I will listen as far as possible. It really pays off, as I discovered when an employee not involved with our website suggested a feature that we now can’t live without!
Tip 4: Reward the team
Rewards are closely linked to the environment tips 1 and 2. Group activities or evenings out after work to reward an accomplishment is a great way to keep morale up, and can create lots of office banter over the following days.
Whenever we achieve a significant landmark or something awesome suddenly occurs, we’re off for a work curry! Spontaneity is key here as planning and waiting for the event can remove the sense of reward and satisfaction.
Tip 5: Reward individual achievements
Companies are driven on good ideas, and something as small as leaving an hour early, or added responsibility on a project can really encourage productivity.
Don’t go too far though, you want to avoid individuals being targeted by other employees who get annoyed by either misinterpreted favouritism, or perhaps a stolen idea.
In my office, any measurable benefit to the company’s bottom-line sees a small bonus to the employee in question. And any imaginative ideas are embraced and turned into a small project for that employee to develop.
Tip 6: Bonus schemes
Bonuses don’t need to be astronomical figures, and employees will appreciate anything that can be a target to aim for. The crucial aspect is to make these achievable; no one wants an unattainable golden carrot hanging over them. Pay this out with a smile on your face; whatever they have achieved is going to benefit you more than it will them in the long-run.
We have small role-based bonus schemes for each individual. They’re not easy targets, but employees know it’s worth it!
Tip 7: Limit working hours
Alert, rested, well rounded people are more efficient than office zombies. If your workforce is consistently struggling to achieve objectives in normal hours then maybe it is time to bring someone else into the team. Out-of-hours work should still be encouraged to a point, but something simple like background reading.
I have a very young, talented workforce, and the last thing I want is burnout. Whilst I encourage out-of-work research (within reason), I try to make sure they still have a life beyond my company. Ultimately I lead by example; this is my company and I live and breathe it, I don’t expect them to match me, but I want them to learn from me.
Tip 8: Foster a no-blame culture
If you succeed in the earlier tips, then a no-blame culture is essential to maintain it. Listening to others ideas and discussing the strengths, drawbacks and implementation is pointless if, once something goes wrong, you point the finger of blame.
If something goes wrong then learn and improve from it. Analyse what caused it and get to the root of the problem. No names, no hassle, just an improved business.
Tip 9: Keep an open mind
Controversial books, articles, new technologies, new people, visiting competitors, any of these can open your mind to an idea not yet considered. Implementing best practices and then looking for continual improvement is the biggest issue for any business, especially if the change is a big one. Take in all of my previous tips, include your team in what’s happening and push forward with these changes.
It’s quite simple, I’ll listen to any idea however barmy it may be, as long as it has a structured and reasoned train of thought and a plan to proceed with.
Tip 10: Benevolent dictatorships rule
Once all is said and done, ultimately the boss has to make any difficult or important decisions. Canvas all the opinion and advice you want, but take the responsibility on your shoulders. Staff will respect you for that.
This removes significant levels of stress in the office and, though some decisions will be difficult and against some employees views, an environment where suggestions are fully listened to and considered before rejection is much better than one where a decision is not even discussed.
I hope these tips help you in motivating your workforce without a huge financial investment. Now it’s your turn, how do you keep a song in the heart of your workforce? Comment below and share the happiness!
John Sollars is the owner and MD of selling printer ink cartridges online. His blog is here.
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John Sollars

MD And Founder

Read more from John Sollars

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