It’s only natural to want to maximize the efficiency of your business. It means more return on your investment and more time to spend on new opportunities. But how do you manage it? There are so many ways: you can clean up your processes, get rid of toxic time-wasting clients, or trim your expenses, to name just a few. But if you really want to make headway, you need to start concentrating on your employees.
Your employees are your biggest and most important investments. You choose them carefully and rely on their talent and effort to keep your business going, after all — you couldn’t continue without them. But that doesn’t mean they’re perfect, or even working optimally. And if you’re not compensating them well, there’s every chance they’re not achieving what they could.
To give you some idea of how you can get your employees performing better, let’s look at how smart businesses use incentives:
They identify areas that need improving
Before you can start incentivizing employees to get more done, you need to know the areas in which they’re falling short: for example, there’s little reason in offering to reward rises in completion times for admin tasks if those tasks are already being handled as quickly as can reasonably be expected. Where are people dragging their feet?
This is where you need to make the daily activities of your business broadly trackable. This isn’t about installing pernicious monitoring: it’s about knowing how the work is going (there’s no good privacy-related reason why you shouldn’t track work). Depending on how exactly your company operates, you may need anything from rich website analytics (usually via Google’s dashboard) to journey tracking (e.g. through telematics, often implemented alongside fuel card schemes to optimize fleets — check out this guide to Esso cards, for instance).
They offer what their employees care about
Generic incentives don’t tend to go very far. Take something like money, for example: in theory, money is a fantastic incentive, as (almost) everyone needs it, or can at least benefit from it in fun ways if they don’t really need it. But there are plenty of people who would much rather pursue other incentives instead of trying to win bonuses.
Here’s a great example of one such incentive: flexible working. Some people have young families they want to spend time with, making a strict 9-to-5 schedule far from ideal. Others simply work better at different times of the day and would rather do most of their work late in the evening. If there’s no compelling reason to disallow it, it makes a fantastic incentive — you just need to tie it to performance and state that it’s only acceptable when the results are there.
They provide viable progression plans
In addition to providing straightforward short-term performance-based results, companies can look to the long term by offering clear progression plans: routes that employees can take to grow and/or change their roles. Even if someone is good at what they do, enjoys it much of the time, and is happy with their general compensation, they’re eventually going to get bored of doing the same thing throughout every working week.
Given this, you can earn a lot of goodwill and hard work from your employees by making it clear to them that they will have opportunities to move towards the jobs they ultimately want (and they won’t need to go elsewhere for them). Don’t simply offer vague reassurances, though: you need to be very specific. “Work hard and we’ll think about your future” means little, whereas “We’ll promote you if you achieve this level of productivity for the next three months” means a lot.
These three steps are key to incentivizing your employees to work hard (and effectively). If you know where performance is low, offer incentives that genuinely interest your employees, and make it clear that consistent excellence will merit significant progression within a set period of time, your workers will be considerably more motivated.