What’s in it for your employees?

Australia’s best boss? Ken Grenda with some some of his happy staff

Last month, bus operator Ken Grenda gave $15 million to his staff as a reward for their hard work and loyalty. He was praised across the country for being one of Australia’s best bosses.

Mr Grenda understood something very valuable: employees need to be treated as more than generators of money. I’m not suggesting that you should try to top his gesture or that you have a spare $15 million to play with! However, a salary is not a sufficient means of offering value, appreciation and motivation to your staff.

This is because business is personal. It is personal to your customers and it should be personal to your employees.


Some people believe that emotions and business do not belong together because an organisation is a place for productivity and hard work. This line of thinking is Dickensian. It is harmful for employees to try to separate feelings and business.

While it is reasonable to expect your staff to be able to manage themselves, employees shouldn’t be treated as mere generators of money; they need to be treated as whole individuals.

It is well known that to influence people to change their behaviour (e.g. change brands, work harder or do business with you), you need to appeal to them on an emotional level or apply the “what’s in it for me” principle. In other words, you need to work with both intellect and emotions. This is the essence of good marketing and also good workplace relations.

The more emotional factors that lead to delight, surprise or feelings of appreciation are also vital to the total customer and employee experience. So, try to make doing business with you an enjoyable and memorable experience. This is something that small businesses can often do better than larger businesses.

Here are 10 things you can do to keep your employees happy and motivated that won’t cost you $15 million (via Cristen Conger at Discovery Health):



  1. Build Trust. Employees want to feel respected and valued, but they also need job security. In today’s turbulent economy, building that trust can be challenging. People are putting in more hours in an attempt to keep their jobs, but fear-driven motivation isn’t healthy. Instead of allowing employees to form assumptions, you should facilitate dialogue to address potential problems and establish yourself as a reliable resource.
  2. Provide Feedback. Providing regular feedback opens up communication between you and your employees, and the benefits are two-fold, with employees gaining a better understanding of where they’re succeeding and what requires more attention and you gleaning insight into office dynamics.
  3. Give Employees Respect. Instead of assuming employees are tied to their current jobs for the rest of their lives, you should try to enhance engagement and respect your workers’ contributions. A crucial part of this involves acknowledging the unique skill sets that employees bring to your business. Promoting collaboration and maintaining open lines of communication with employees will help you recognise underused skills.
  4. Provide Opportunities for Career Growth. To maintain and encourage high levels of engagement, offer career growth opportunities, e.g. compensating advanced education, funding conferences or establishing an internal mentorship program. Career development enriches employees’ skill sets, which will further enrich your business. It also communicates to employees that they are important members of the team who are expected to learn new and better ways of meeting goals.
  5. Explain the Big Picture. You can boost satisfaction by ensuring that your employees understand the business’ big picture. Employees should understand how the goals that they accomplish contribute to the overall success of your business.
  6. Set Clear Goals. While you should give your employees a degree of independence over their tasks, you also need to set clear-cut goals. Definable goals allow employees to chart their progress and determine the resources needed to accomplish them. More importantly, setting goals infuses daily work with a sense of purpose.
  7. Recognise Success. Effectively engaged employees are self-motivated to go above and beyond the call of duty. It’s up to you to recognise jobs well done. Instead of considering employee recognition as a tool to incentivise success, consider it as a way to establish a standard for excellence. Businesses don’t have to attach a monetary value to performance rewards for them to be effective – basic public recognition can reinforce the business’ values.
  8. Face-to-Face Time. Without some outlets for person-to-person interaction, employees may feel removed from the business’ identity. Email and conference calls have made conducting business far more convenient, but some of the details can get lost in the shuffle between laptops and mobile devices. Addressing employees’ desire to ‘bond’ is an effective way of boosting their dedication to the business.
  9. Open Communication. The difference between a mediocre boss and an effective one often boils down to communication. Specifically, a lack of transparency from the top down to entry-level employees. You shouldn’t be afraid of fielding questions and must remain straightforward about what can be addressed.
  10. Offer Flexible Work Options. The nine-to-five office culture is nearing the end of its reign. People are still expected to put in their 40 hours and complete projects by certain deadlines, but they’re no longer tethered to a desk chair. Mobile devices allow employees to get the job done virtually anywhere. Offering flexible working conditions is a great incentive for workers who are restricted by school hours and other commitments. Obviously this doesn’t work for every industry or size of business, but having it as an option for a set amount of days in a year is a great place to start.


What about you? How do you keep your staff happy and motivated?

2 thoughts on “What’s in it for your employees?”

  1. Listen!
    We all want to know we’ve been listened to, so good bosses listen. When good bosses listen they can hear:
    – what’s working,
    – what’s not working,
    – new ideas, creativity and innovation,
    – who’s happy and who’s not
    – who needs more support and who needs more challenge and responsibility
    … just to name a few of the benefits of listening. From the listening then comes the action, which will directly impact on the employee’s level of morale and motivation.

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