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Keys to motivate employees

The basics of what employees need

As a fourth generation retailer who had worked in the family business as a child, there were very few things I was expose to in high school or college classes which I thought wer relevant to the operation of a retail business.

Retailing seemed to exist with its own set of rules, and its own time line.  I remember making comments in classes, "You don't understand.  We can't just walk out the door at 12 noon and go to lunch.  Our work week doesn't end with 40 hours. And we are often already doing three things when the phone rings and it is a sales representative or a customer."

But, there was one area where I was exposed to some material which I thought belonged to retail.  The instructor didn't say so, but I thought the information was there, just as clear as can be.

The class introduced us to the Maslow hierarchy of human needs.  We were told there were five basic needs.  And if you wanted to have a happy and productive person, the five needs had to be provided; and they could only be provided in the proper sequence.

I saw these five needs as being the steps to developing an employee who was not only happy with themselves, but with the business where they worked.

The first need was for basic food, clothing, and shelter. Perhaps the most important part of this first need was hearing that excessive amounts of money (pay) did not makeup for short comings in the other four areas.  And, if a dollar would allow a person to be happy, then five dollars does not necessarily allow them to be real happy.

The point being, that money cannot pay the way to having real happy people.  There is however, room for incentives in your efforts to develop motivated employees.  Incentives can be used to develop additional sales, team work, and even to correct poor work habits.

The key to having a successful incentive is to be able to put in writing exactly what results you want, and what you are willing to pay for these results.  From the standpoint of the employee, without giving away the secret of the other four points we are going to cover, they want, and need the recognition of having achieved.  With any incentive, you can expect the best results if the prize includes several ingredients; the spouse or family of the employee, some cash, and allows them to enjoy their hobby or special interest.

For example, if you have an employee who enjoys the movies, you have a very good chance of receiving what you want if the prize for your employee is dinner for two, movie tickets for two, and $30 to pay for snacks, and the baby sitter if necessary.

The second human need we studied with Maslow was that of the need to be a part of something.  Unfortunately, in retailing "team" is probably the most overused word.  Somehow, the idea of calling employees "a team" is supposed to inspire employees.  In reality, it rarely does if there is no backup ingredients.

Creating a team requires action.  Do employees have business cards?  Do they make decisions, or do they just hear the word "empower"?  As the owner or manager, are the ideas and suggestions of your employees solicited, and acted upon?  If I believe, as your employee, that my opinion matters, and that I am a part of something special, then you are developing a team.

The third item from Maslow, was achieving the esteem of others.  And again a reminder, going through the five step process requires you to do so in the same sequence.  An excellent example of an individual achieving the esteem of others is shown by the employee who is asked for by name by a customer.  Other than the occasion of a friend asking for a friend, the request to see a certain employee should be seen as a customer putting the stamp of approval on your employee.

The customer is saying this person has waited on me before and I am so pleased with the service that I especially want this same person to wait on me again.

Repeated occasions of a customer receiving the esteem of another leads to the employee improving their self esteem which is the fourth step in the Maslow five step progression.

A classic example of a failure to allow someone to gain self confidence is shown in the business which requires an employee to have approval of a manager on everything they do. There are many employees who are being paid just above the minimum wage, have the key to the front door of the store, and yet are not allowed to make any type of decision.

A customer comes into the business to make a purchase and there is only one of the item they want left on the shelf. Unfortunately, it has been scratched and has a couple of dings to it. The item has a price tag of $200, and moving this one item could be accomplished with something as simple as a $15 reduction in the price.

Why is it we trust the employee with the key to the front door, but won't allow them to make a $15 decision?

Obviously, the employee in this situation is not going to go far with regard to developing their self esteem or growing into management material.

If we have successfully navigated our way to providing the first four of Maslow's needs, we can proceed to the fifth which is allowing an employee to be able to give of themselves to others.  This could include actions such as allowing an employee to mentor to a new employee, or having the employee be your representative to the merchants association and taking an active part.

Maybe, your business supports the local SPCA, and your employees could be instrumental in making a difference. Whatever your cause, allowing your employees to have the opportunity to give of themselves completes the five keys from Maslow.

Motivation of employees is not an easy task.  Motivation of employees, however, does require only a few, five to be exact, simple steps.  The successful merchants may be utilizing some of the best incentive programs, but they most definitely know how to implement the five keys to employee motivation from Maslow.

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This article is copyrighted by Tom Shay and Profits Plus Solutions, who can be reached at: PO Box 1577, St. Petersburg, Fl. 33731. Phone 727-464-2182. It may be printed for an individual to read, but not duplicated or distributed without expressed written consent of the copyright owner.

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