6 Ways to Boost Small Biz Morale


With a small business team it’s easy for work to get personal. One sour apple is likely to sour the bunch that much faster, while positive employee attitudes often make for a healthier business.

In stressful times, with less workers asked to do more and more, one message is clear - employee morale matters.

Here’s how some small business leaders keep their teams motivated:

1. Treat Coworkers like Adults
“Clear, direct and expedient communication” is one of the things “we really believe in,” says John Roberson, president of marketing firm Advent in Nashville, Tenn. Morale is boosted when you “treat people like grown-ups and like you want to be treated – as a family member or a team member.”

2. Be Open to Flexible Work Schedules
Stepping Stone Management Services, a tutoring service in Washington, allows employees to telecommute one day a week and they can pick the day, says President Yao Tyus.

3. Time Off is Always a Bonus
Scott Hauge, president of Cal Insurance and Associates in San Francisco, gives 28 of his 30 employees every other Friday off. (He is not able to offer this schedule to the receptionist and his assistant.) “That’s probably the biggest benefit and morale booster outside of anything financial,” he says. “As an employer I hate it. I think it’s a real pain in the ass because every other Friday you’ve got…your staff gone, but from a morale standpoint, I wouldn’t change it and as much as I dislike it, I wouldn’t change it.”

Roberson agrees that a day off can do a world of good. “Sure it’s lost labor, but it doesn’t cost any additional payroll and it’s a way of saying thanks.”

4. Treats, Treats, Treats
When the staff is hunkered down on a project, Advent management likes to run out and get popsicles, ice cream sandwiches or an order from the staff’s favorite fast food joint, Sonic (Stock Quote: SONC). “We pause for a minute as a team and that’s the beauty of what a small business can do,” says Roberson.

During snack-fueled team breaks, Roberson, who was a cheerleader in high school, keeps the mood light by passing footballs around, doing toe touches and otherwise “embarrassing” himself.

5. Celebrate the Individual
It may sound corny, but it works. Roberson schedules employee meetings where a goal-achieving or hard-working employee will share strategies. After the presentation, “the whole team claps for that individual” because that day “she’s a hero.”

6. Don’t Cancel the Office Party
Last year, Advent saw the economy turning down in the fourth quarter. For prior years, the firm had always had a “nice Christmas party at a nice restaurant” for each employee and a guest. But the floundering economy meant that the 2008 holiday gathering became a potluck. Roberson said the party was a hit, bringing more intimacy to the gathering as staff liked to talk about what dishes each had made. “I also think that it processes with people that it’s better to have a potluck and no fancy restaurant than to have to lay someone else off.”

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