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How to Motivate and Retain Your Employees

One of the easiest ways to motivate your employees is with a simple smile and a positive attitude. Being in a good mood may not always be easy, especially after sitting in traffic and noticing there isn't coffee in the breakroom. But just in case you'd like to learn other tips for keeping and encouraging your best employees, you'll find several in the lesson below.

When you're a solo entrepreneur, it's pretty easy to find the motivation to work. You're the one defining your working conditions, meaning that you can set up your business to reflect what's important to you!

But the story changes when it comes time to bring employees on board. If you want people to work for your company, you have to inspire them to stick around. Losing an employee has been shown to cost businesses not only a lot of money, but also a lot of time and productivity.

So how can you encourage your employees to do their very best at work and stay with your organization? What can you do to ensure you have a great team working for you?

Provide Competitive Compensation (Salary, Benefits, and Perks)

Plenty of people genuinely enjoy what they do for a living, but let's be honest: most of us also need to make sure we have a good paycheck (as well as health insurance) when choosing a job. When the economy is good, more businesses start hiring, and when more businesses are hiring, your employees might start looking for other jobs that better meet their financial needs if your compensation package isn't competitive.

Even when the economy isn't great, however, it still pays for you to pay your employees fairly for their line of work. A decent paycheck tells employees their work is valued, and you rely on their contribution to the company. It assigns a dollar value to all of the projects they do on your company's behalf and the goals they achieve. Pay more for that work, and that assigns more value. Nothing shows appreciation quite like cold hard cash and a decent 401K plan.

Pay, insurance, and retirement savings are not the only forms of employee compensation you can offer! Extra vacation time, flexible working arrangements, free food in the office, and even branded company gifts (like jackets customized with your logo) all help motivate and retain employees as well.

Don't be afraid to have some fun at work!

Offer Feedback Regularly (and Don't Skimp on the Praise!)

Nobody likes the annual performance review. Not only do these reviews tend to make the employees feel like subjects of a police investigation, they also allow bad habits and attitudes among employees and employers to go uncorrected for months at a time.

Instead, try offering honest feedback regularly, and in an informal way. Telling your employees what you like about their work and what you would want to see improve lets them know if they're on the right course within your organization. It also helps both you and your employees figure out early on if they're a good match for your company culture and goals.

If your employees aren't quite meeting your expectations, be sure to tell them in a way that expresses your desire for them to grow with your organization. And if your employees are kicking some tail at their jobs, let them know! A healthy 69% of employees in one survey said that being recognized for their efforts would make them work harder.

Don't Keep Bad Employees Around

Even if you've done all you can to provide the best feedback possible, you might still end up with the occasional employee who isn't doing what you need him or her to do and who doesn't seem interested in changing. Getting angry and expressing that anger to your employee, or bad-mouthing the person to the rest of your staff, isn't going to help. It's just going to create one of those toxic work environments you always read about.

The "f" word is a tough one for a lot of business owners, but there are times when you just have to do it: you have to fire an employee. You'll probably know when, even if you aren't ready to admit it; the person may lie, refuse job tasks, or display some of the other classic signs of a bad employee.

Once you decide the employee can't be kept, it's important to let that person go quickly. As Inc. Magazine points out, "if you keep bad people, good people will leave." After all, no one wants to work to exceed standards if the sub-par employees get rewarded as well. And getting rid of the bad apple can do wonders for office morale.

Have Fun in the Office

There are plenty of serious matters that you're responsible for as an employer, such as hiring and firing. But who wants to spend at least forty hours each week in a place where almost nobody ever laughs?

So don't be afraid of having some fun at work. There is a lot you can do to lighten up the office atmosphere, from bringing in cake and sponsoring a company party to initiating a "Casual Friday" dress code. Having some fun at work has been shown to result in incredible benefits for your workplace, including increased creativity and productivity among employees, lower levels of absenteeism, and greater job satisfaction.

It doesn't take a lot of effort to show your employees that they're valued members of your company. From adequate compensation packages to the occasional employee gift (like a customized stress ball), you can encourage your employees to stick with your company. By motivating them with positive reinforcement, you'll create a work environment everyone will look forward to day after day!