You employ lots of people earning low wages. They face demanding jobs and limited opportunities for advancement. So what’s to motivate them?
“You have to make them believe in something bigger than themselves,” says Jon Gordon, author of The Energy Bus. Proclaim a mission that gives deeper meaning to their jobs.
Gordon, who ran a chain of five Mexican restaurants, admits that it’s hard to motivate someone who “rolls burritos all day.” But he challenged each employee to “be a memory maker” every day by creating special memories for customers.
He recalls how one of his cashiers noticed a regular customer’s forlorn appearance. The employee asked why the customer looked so gloomy.
“My husband didn’t say ‘Happy Anniversary’ to me this morning,” the customer said.
The cashier decided to give her a free lunch and wished her a happy anniversary. The woman was so touched that she grew teary-eyed and wrote a heartfelt note of appreciation to Gordon.
“That cashier wasn’t paid a lot,” says Gordon, aconsultant based in Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla. “But you can bet he was motivated to make a special memory for that customer—and he did.”
Another strategy to spur low-wage workers is to give them opportunities to learn and grow on the job. If they’re stuck doing repetitive tasks all day, they will lose their edge. Let them venture outside their comfort zone by training them to tackle new responsibilities and broaden their skills.
Finally, give people as much leeway as possible to perform. Don’t micromanage. Set production goals and track results while allowing people to decide how to handle their workload. Goal attainment takes on greater significance when employees can stage experiments and figure out the best way to meet team objectives.