Posted by : Amanda Stein Thursday, January 17, 2013

Maintaining team morale can present extra challenges for small business owners. Smaller companies often feel economic hardships more keenly than their larger competitors, leading to unease when a project comes to an end or a co-worker leaves for other opportunities. However, smaller businesses also have some advantages when it comes to morale. Use the strengths inherent in a close-knit company to boost morale and keep it high.

1. Talk openly with your employees. Creating a culture of truth, openness and honesty will stand you in good stead whether you're delivering good news about another big contract or expressing concerns about profits. By knowing the company's situation fully, employees feel more involved and motivated to make it work even when faced with a challenge. You have opportunities to talk to your staff that larger companies don't; one-on-one meetings and personal conversations aren't part of a big company's culture, but they can work for you.

2. Know your personnel. If you had to track 300 employees' birthdays, it would be a challenge, but in a smaller company, you can personalize the attention you give your staff. Mark birthdays, work anniversaries and other special occasions with some kind of celebration. It may seem like a small thing to acknowledge a special day, but to employees, it’s part of what makes working for a small business better than working for a larger firm. Employees who feel valued are happy employees and happy employees boost overall company morale.

3. Offer great incentive programs. Incentives are always a good way of raising employee morale, and that goes double for smaller companies because you can personalize incentives in ways the big fish can't match. Tailor your incentives to your staff and business needs to find what will really motivate them. For some, that might be the opportunity to telecommute one day of the week for a month. Others might enjoy gift cards to local businesses. Treating your entire marketing team to lunch for completing a project under budget is a luxury small business owners can enjoy, and employees will love celebrating their win together.

4. Give your employees flexibility. Part of the joy of working for a smaller company is the flexibility it offers. Give your staff the chance to take a longer lunch or run an errand when needed, and they'll make it up to you in loyalty and hard work. Telecommuting is another option that feels like a reward to employees by sparing them their morning commute, yet it saves you money. Flexible hours doesn't mean letting employees choose their own hours all the time, nor does it mean always acquiescing to their requests, but an occasional willingness to work with employees' schedules can win you devoted personnel.

5. Have fun together. Whether it's an annual company picnic or a monthly lunch, make time for group events that let your employees enjoy spending time with each other. Ask them what they'd enjoy most or present them with a couple of options for group activities. Come up with a few uncommon options such as a day at a paintball range or a trip to a local water park. Employees who see one another as friends report higher morale, so foster those friendships through fun activities.

Lauren Leighton writes on behalf of DexOne who provides local marketing solutions for your business.

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