There are plenty of studies by various HR organizations that speak to what matters most to employees, and thus motivates them to perform well and stay in their jobs. I’ve looked at plenty of these reports, and many of them point to ideas such as:

  • Clearly defining objectives and goals
  • Opportunity to advance and professional growth
  • Being part of a organization that is making a difference in the world
  • Feeling appreciated by peers and managers
  • Compensation and benefits
  • An environment that aligns with their personality/team camaraderie
  • Schedule flexibility
  • Autonomy

All of these factors probably influence at least one person in your organization, but the problem with lists like these is that every employee is different. Larger organizations must manage to lists like these in order to motivate large groups as best as possible. But small businesses have the opportunity to address specifically what motivates each individual in their organization.

If you run a smaller practice or business, when is the last time you asked your employees individually about the things that matter the most to them in an employer? I did recently, and some of the answers were a little surprising. Because I know my employees so well (at least I thought I did), I just assumed I knew the answers. But one thing is for sure, each person had their own answers, and they were all different.

At Local Eye Site, we have fewer than 10 employees, so that affords me the flexibility to be able to manage tweaking positions based on things that matter most to each individual employee. For example, compensation plans are definitely built to specifically address what motivates each employee. We have employees that have told us that goal setting, and monetary awards associated with accomplishing those goals is very motivating for them. We make that happen. But other employees, even some in quasi-sales positions aren’t motivated by those kinds of monetary rewards. Some are more motivated by recognition of a job well-done than they are money. One of our employees would rather be on salary, and be rewarded with a congratulatory call or note from the boss for a job well-done. I’m careful to manage this person accordingly.      

It is understood that some things are non-negotiable. There are laws that require us to treat all of our employees the same in some areas. Some benefits, like health insurance, for example require you to treat your employees equally. But in areas where it’s appropriate, ask your employees what’s important to them, and try to build a job for each person that stimulates productivity, and minimizes turnover.