Dangle constant incentives. To motivate low-level employees, keep the rewards coming. At least once a month, find reasons to give them gifts, small cash bonuses, paid time off or other prizes.
Create incremental incentives so that the rewards grow as performance and attendance improve. Example: Give simple gifts to workers with perfect attendance for the month. For each successive month that they maintain 100 percent attendance, make the gifts more memorable.
Provide opportunity. Most worker bees want to move up. The smart ones probably think, “If only I had a chance to do my boss’s job, I’d show ’em.” Unclog the career advancement pipeline by exposing them to higher-level responsibilities. But if you hand over authority—even for a day—make sure they’ve been briefed on company policy.
Invest in training. Equip your people with new technology and train them to use it. Pair them with mentors. Pay for them to attend outside seminars on topics they request.
Say thanks. One of the biggest complaints of support staffers is that they’re ignored. Despite their hard work, they may feel invisible.
Take every opportunity to look employees in the eye, smile and say, “Thank you.” Acknowledge any special effort. Introduce them to visitors—such as managerial job candidates— by saying, “I want you to meet one of our heroes.”
Put praise in writing. Telling staffers how much you appreciate their dedication is a good first step. Now send an e-mail or memo that describes the accomplishment. Written praise has vastly more impact. And if you make it a habit, other worker bees will try to earn a “herogram,” too.