How do you retain your top talent? How do you get the best from your team? Here are 22 simple ways to help you motivate your team.

  1. Salary: Are you paying your people market rate? While you will never win with money, you need to be in the right neighborhood. If you aren't paying in market range, you'll risk higher turnover with the costs associated with it.
  2. Benefits: For many of your team, especially those who are more "security" conscious, the benefits you offer are actually worth more than their true cost to your company.
  3. Bonuses: Recognizing that any bonus regularly paid quickly becomes part of the "base" in the minds of your team, a strategic bonus plan can be a great motivator and retention tool. One approach might be setting up a semi-annual bonus for qualifying team members that is paid 90 days after the end date, and by which point they must still be employed by your company. Other options include bonuses for generating new business and bonuses for people who come up with structural cost-cutting innovations.
  4. Commissions: For some of your staff, letting them earn "success fees" and "commissions" is a great motivator. The biggest mistake I see with sales compensation plans is having too much or not enough of the earnings on commission (if in fact that is how you want to structure your sales-team comp.) A sales team that earns too much on base is more concerned with selling you on not firing them than they are on selling your products and services.
  5. Contests: Set a goal, have a clear way to measure progress that your team can visually see, and reward the result. The best contests bring a team together, either by setting a group challenge and reward, or by being playful enough that they foster healthy (as opposed to destructive) competition.
  6. Great work environment: Do people like the atmosphere of your office? Do they feel good when they are at work? After all, if they're spending eight or more hours a day there, you want to give them a work environment that brings out their best.
  7. Flexibility of schedule: Where possible, can you let your team schedule work around family commitments? Or give them the ability to feel in control of their own calendar? Obviously, the job has to get done, and the nature of the work and your business will present some constraints, but within those constraints you have a lot of room to be flexible. Flexibility costs you nothing and can mean the world to your team. It can also be set up as something they have to earn.
  8. Work remotely (all or part-time): This is one of the perks my team at Maui Mastermind values most. Not only does it cost you nothing, but it will likely save you money by reducing your office space needs. Yes, you have to work harder to improve communication and workflow, but this can spark you to increase quality and volume of output by your team.
  9. Vacation time: Let your team earn more vacation time based on performance. Whether it be by rewarding a team that came through on a big project with a four-day weekend, or giving team members in their third year with your company a third paid week off each year, vacation time is a sweet perk that many small business owners can use to retain top talent.
  10. Unpaid time away: If you can't afford to pay them for those extra three weeks of vacation, perhaps you can give them weeks three, four and five off for that once in a lifetime trip, just without pay. Again, be creative here and keep this in your bag of tricks to use with individual situations of your top people.
  11. Greater autonomy: This is a huge motivator for your team -- letting them earn the freedom to self-manage and do things their way. After all, it's likely one of the strongest drives that compelled you to start your own business to begin with, so why shouldn't it be as compelling to your team?
  12. Greater responsibility: Giving your team greater responsibility will make them feel they are growing professionally. It's a sign that you trust them, and that they are creating value for the company. This is a powerful intoxicant for top producers. Of course, if you give them greater responsibility, you need to give them the authority to meet those responsibilities too.
  13. Share information: Bringing a team member "inside" by sharing key information is a clear signal that you value and trust them. On a lesser scale, even just sharing mundane information with your team on a regular basis can motivate employees by letting them be "in the know." It's a sign of respect. Often this motivator is used in its opposite -- by not sharing information -- to send a demotivating message of distrust and disrespect.
  14. Ask and value their input -- honor their voice: When was the last time you asked for a team member's opinion? Or sought their help with a thorny issue? Asking your team for input on how to solve problems or improve the company is a great way to engage your workforce. Just make sure you are serious and not simply paying lip service to their ideas. Your staff can smell insincerity a mile away.
  15. Cool work: Is the work your team does inherently challenging and absorbing? Do you have the ability to hand off cool projects to your key players?
  16. Feeling of growth: Do you have a plan to help your staff learn and grow? This can be as simple as taking time each quarter to give your team feedback and help them map out a plan of action to grow professionally. You can do this with your managers and encourage your managers to do this with their teams.
  17. Let them bring pets into work: From my experience, it is a great perk to let employees bring a pet to work, especially compared with the stress people feel from trying to find a way to care for their animal while they're at the office.
  18. Let them bring their kids to work (or their work to home): If you can swing on-site daycare, that's a huge perk for your people. Obviously, most small businesses can't afford this. But even letting a worker bring in a child who has the afternoon off from school, or work from home when their kid is sick, can be huge help.  You could also contract with a local babysitting service and reward your core team with x days of sitting for when they need it most.
  19. Aspirational -- a path forward: Help your team map out a career with your company, not just a job. The clearer you make that future picture, the more committed they will be to doing great work and enhancing their capabilities to fit in with the future you want for them.
  20. A mission to be part of: Does your team move boxes or move the world? Do they feel connected to a higher calling with your business? At Maui Mastermind we "coach business owners" to grow their companies and reduce their employees' reliance on them as an owner. But everyone on our team feels part of a company that changes lives -- the lives of our clients, of their staffs, of their vendors, of their customers, and of the families of all of these groups. We share stories of clients' successes. We start or end many meetings with reminders that we're not here to coach a business, but to bring the humanity back into building a business. (Yes, you can grow your business and get your life back! You can build a company that gives opportunities and security to a growing team of employees.)
  21. Relationship -- a personal connection: Be willing to forge deep personal connections with your team. Take the time to get to know them and their lives. Share about yours. I know that many business owners (myself included) hold ourselves back for fear of drama or awkward moments, but in general, we err too often on isolating ourselves from our teams. So take a team member out to lunch, organize a social event, ask them how their son is doing in school, and truly be open to connecting in an authentic way.
  22. Identity -- how they see themselves: Zappos employees sees themselves in a special way. It's clear to me every time I order from them over the phone. The more you can get your team to identify with your company, to see their work as part of who they are, the more committed they will be and the happier they'll be working with you. So help shape how your team members see themselves.