You wouldn’t expect a vegetable garden to thrive without proper care, or your car to work reliably without oil and proper maintenance.

So why assume that you’ll get the best out of employees simply by providing a paycheck?

Employees are like any other investment you make in your small business. You break even when you pay a fair day’s wage for a fair day’s work. But when employees are encouraged and inspired to give more than 100 percent every day, you’ll receive a far greater return on those wages. Best of all, many tactics for motivating employees are easy to implement.

Here are some starting points for creating and sustaining a motivated, dynamic work environment:

Communicate With Them. Meet with your employees on regularly to review upcoming priorities, recent successes and issues, and other related topics. Ask for their opinions and ideas, and encourage discussions that can be continued informally, via group emails, or at the next meeting. Make sure each opinion is valued, and seek to correct misinformation and false assumptions.

Get to Know Them. Complement formal meetings with informal chats about non-business issues. Don’t pry, but strive to learn about their personal lives. Celebrating birthdays is a small business staple, but also look for other milestones to recognize such as a child’s wedding or acceptance to college. Also be ready to offer sympathy to employees facing difficulties such as a family illness or death.

Empower Them. Look for smaller tasks and projects that can be delegated to one or more employees. This will help build their skills, and give you extra time to focus on your business’s “big picture” issues. They may also find ways to do these kinds of tasks more efficiently, saving time and money in the process.

Respect Them. Would you want to be criticized for a mistake in front of your co-workers? Nobody does. What’s more, criticism may do nothing to solve the problem. Instead, take the employee aside and try to find out why the mistake occurred. It may be a misunderstanding in the process, or the employee was distracted by a personal issue. Work together to find a solution, and then monitor subsequent performance. If the mistakes keep occurring, more serious action may be needed.

Challenge Them. Get employees thinking or giving extra effort by offering appropriate rewards. It doesn’t have to be cash; the lure of an extra day off is all many people need to achieve certain goals or “go above and beyond.” Also celebrate company milestones with a party, company outing, or other event.

There are many other ways to motivate employees, and there’s no better place to learn about them than SCORE. You can tap the expertise of SCORE’s more than 13,000 volunteer counselors on a virtually unlimited range of small business questions, all for no charge. For more information, visit

Take Care of Employees, and They’ll Take Care of You