Every CEO, especially CEOs of small businesses and startups, know that motivation is the key to productivity and the success of the firm. But achieving the holy grail of motivation is tough. Despite what many people might think, CEOs don’t have the power to control every human interaction in their office and that every individual has the right attitude towards work.


So the question, then, is how to motivate people? Let’s take a look at stuff that has already been proven to work in industry.


Be An Example


Kevin Plank, the founder of a clothing company called Under Armour, says that the success of his company came down to the fact that he allowed employees to be a part of the decision-making process. He was able to get ideas from his employees, which benefitted him, and his workers were able to feel like they were part of the process. Plank says that this helped enormously to motivate them and to help them feel both needed and appreciated. It was thanks to this involvement that Plank managed to generate great leadership among his employees. There were other people, besides him, actively thinking about the direction of the company and how to make it better.


Focus On Happiness, Not Motivation


To motivate employees you shouldn’t focus on motivation – at least according to Zappos, often hailed as one of the most employee-friendly businesses of the plant. CEO of Zappos. The company’s CEO, Tony Hsieh, told Inc magazine back in 2010 what it was that he thought was most important when it came to running a business. He said it was happiness, not just for his customers, but also of his employees too.


One of the weirdest things about Zappos is that it has managed to gain a reputation for being an incredible employer, despite the fact that it pays its employees wages that are below the market rate. According to the data, hourly workers at the company make a mere $23,000 a year. But Hsieh says that the firm makes up for all this by offering things like free healthcare, as well as developing a corporate culture that people actually want to be a part of. For some people, Hsieh’s approach might seem like a con, but he’s realised that people are willing to work for less, so long as you praise them, treat them well, and make them happy to be at work.


For small businesses, this could mean doing things as simple as praising workers and hiring empathetic managers, or it could be starting an employee assist programme to cater for those who are struggling with personal issues.


Enable Workers To Become More Autonomous


Daniel Pink is the author of the book Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us. He chronicles the folly of using cash alone to motivate employees, citing the example of the Wall Street Crash. Pink wants businesses to know that they shouldn’t just focus on financial incentives: instead, they should help workers find the joy of work itself. This, he says, helps to give them agency and fosters a desire within them to want to master tasks and get really good at their job.


Encourage Complaints


Dell used to be hated by its customers. Things got so bad at one point that there was an anti-fan club, doing the rounds on internet forums and excoriating the company on blogs.


But instead of ignoring the problem, Dell listened to the complaints of its customers. It resolved to do things differently in the future and managed to turn things around, even when the situation seemed helpless. Dell reached out to its critics, listened, and then took the necessary action to remedy the situation and repair its relationships with its customers. Now the company is widely regarded as having some of the best aftermarket sales care in the entire industry.


Jeff Jarvis wrote a book about Dell’s experience. He suggests that businesses take the same approach with their employees. After all, employees, just like customers, want a basic level of service from the organisations they work for. Employees who feel that they are able to complain and who are listened to will feel more motivated at work if problems are resolved. Many workers, Jarvis warns, don’t always feel as if they are able to approach management with their criticisms for fear that they might be seen as disloyal or that they might be retaliated against. But getting rid of this barrier helps companies because it means that they will find it easier in the future to attract the best talent on offer in the industry.