Sunday 25 February 2018

Problem Solver: How do I keep my 50 employees motivated about work?

Feargal Quinn
Feargal Quinn

Q: I have over 50 employees in my business and I am looking for some advice on how to keep them motivated.

A: I recall many years ago talking to an employee who was just about to retire on the 31st of December.

He told me about how much he enjoyed working in Superquinn, that he looked forward to coming to work every day and that regularly he would think that it was 4pm only to find out the day was almost over. He genuinely did enjoy working with us. Sadly he passed away on Christmas Day, six days before he was due to retire.

At our first board meeting of the New Year, we chatted about his passing and I instigated a conversation about how we could create a company where every single person felt part of a team. I could give you lots of individual answers about motivating staff, but realistically if you can achieve a team spirit, the rest will fall into place.

It will also be vital that this building of the team is top of your list of priorities and those of the other directors of the company.

Your staff are your most important asset, and it is all too easy to see them as a cost and a necessary overhead. They can make the difference between success and failure, and allow you a key point of difference over your competitors. That conversation with an employee who enjoyed his job so much, and sadly never got to enjoy his retirement, had a huge influence on our approach to staff motivation.

Q: How did you keep in touch with the 'grass routes' of Superquinn when the company became larger?

A: Let me start by telling you a story which will help illustrate the complexity of achieving this, and how sometimes company owners get lost in their management role.

I was part of several global retail groups and I recall a meeting being called at one such group, CIES. As part of the agenda, which was sent out two months in advance, each of the 30 retailers participating were asked to bring three ideas which were working for their business that they would share with their colleagues around the table.

I happened to be first on the list to present my ideas and when it came to the turn of the others, not one of the other 29 had an idea to present.

All gave varying responses which centred about being very busy and I remember one of my colleagues from France commenting on 'How lucky you are to have time to be on the shop floor'.

The only reason I was on the shop floor was that I made time to be there. It would have been very easy for me to get tied up in meetings and red tape, and be able to justify to myself why I had no time to visit our shops, talk to customers and staff and generally engage at the cold face.

The answer to your question is that it is entirely up to you whether you stay in touch with what is going on in the business, or not. If you make it a priority you will find the learnings invaluable and will allow you to steer a course for the business much better than if you were otherwise removed from the day to day operations.

It worked a treat for me and I would strongly recommend you allocate a certain number of hours per week to MBWA (Management by Walking About).

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