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Low-Cost Ways to Motivate Employees

Aside from cutting expenses, delaying payment of bills, ramping up collections and altering their business models, employers can try low-cost ways to motivate their employees to increase revenue and profitability, according to Suzanne Bates, author of Motivate Like a CEO: Communicate Your Strategic Vision and Inspire People to Act!

"Money is only one of many factors that motivate employees. When people enjoy their jobs, like their co-workers, and believe their pay is basically fair, they don't focus so much on their compensation," says Bates, president and CEO of Bates Communications.

Among the low-cost and no-cost ways to keep people motivated in challenging times, according to "Motivate Like a CEO," are:

• Send out e-mails thanking employees each week. "Take a few minutes each Friday to e-mail your team, highlighting something each person has achieved that week. If you have a small company, you can actually mention everybody. This is an empowering exercise, not only because you make other people feel good, but it also forces you to look at what's going right," says Bates.

• Have a "connection day" where you connect with customers. "Set aside one day per quarter to get in touch with your clients and prospects, and find out how they are doing. Ask them questions about their projects, thank them for the opportunity to work with them. When appropriate, offer in some small way to provide assistance or advice at no charge. Write handwritten notes, and send e-mails with attachments to articles they may want to read," says Bates.

• Use down time to send employees to seminars where they can learn something new. "There are many low-cost or no-cost professional development opportunities. Many area business meetings are low-cost and provide high value, as do some marketing events for companies. By giving employees an afternoon off each month, they'll get a break while improving their skills and knowledge," Bates says.

• Hold morning "standup meetings." "Each morning, before heading into offices or cubicles, stand in a circle and share what's happening in a 15-minute session. Even when facing challenges or disappointments, people are there to boost each other and offer help. It's an empowering way to start the day," says Bates.

• Bring people together to share business success stories. "Storytelling is very important in boosting employee morale," notes Bates. "The pre-meeting assignment is to come in with a story about a successful project or customer interaction, and explore what you learned, and how it can be applied to your present situation. Write down these stories and use them again in the company newsletter, employee presentations and weekly e-mails."

• Use the company newsletter to highlight successes. "Make the newsletter something people enjoy reading. Ask employees to contribute stories. Be creative in looking for fun ways to reward and recognize good work," says Bates.

• Create small employee awards and hand them out often. "Buy a few trophies and give them out monthly. These are always best when they encourage employees to do the things that are going to make a difference in your business," Bates says.

• Walk around often, and tell people they're doing a great job. "In times like these, we tend to hunker down in our offices and stare at balance sheets. Our energy is low and our anxiety is high," adds Bates. "Make it a point to stop people in the halls, go into their offices, and thank them or congratulate them every day. Tell them how much their work means to you, and how vital they are to the future of the company."