Eight Tactics to Motivate Minimum Wage Employees

by Train2GainUS©2006

One of the biggest demands a business owner, manager or supervisor faces is that of motivating employees.  While it is difficult enough to motivate the experienced worker, many in management find themselves especially perplexed when it comes to encouraging production from minimum wage employees – people who tend to be younger, less experienced and less inspired to stick with their job. Managers and supervisors expect – and plan for high turn-over and tolerate whatever performance level they get, as long as the employee shows up for work and does not cause trouble.  When employees dislike their jobs or are indifferent toward them, the result can be poor customer service and low productivity. The overall effect can be devastating to a business’ bottom line.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics 2009 survey, there are more than 3.6 million U.S. adults earning at or below the prevailing minimum wage. These employees constitute a large segment of the working population–more than 4.9 percent of the nation’s total “hourly worker” population is working today for minimum wage.

Minimum wage workers can be motivated.  We have listed a few tactics that you can employ to reduce turnover, improve customer service and stimulate productivity.

Let employees see your concern – Take an interest in your employees. On a daily basis, engage each one of them in a brief conversation.  A recurring complaint among low-wage workers is that their managers do not call them by name. They gesture and say, “Hey, come here.”  Avoid this demeaning practice.

Allow employees to participate in decision-making – The people in your business who actually do the work are often the best qualified to judge how it should be done. They will provide you with good suggestions, and at the same time, feel a part of your business.

Motivate with positive reinforcement – When you want employees to perform in a certain way, make sure you tell them explicitly, specifically, politely and firmly what it is you want them to do. It sounds simple–but there are many managers who spend all of their time trying to manage people by telling them what not to do: “Don’t do that!”… “Stop doing this!”… “Don’t ever do that!” . . ., ect.

Use participative leadership – Positive reinforcement follows participative leadership. An effective motivator will demonstrate how to complete a task. Managers must be willing to “roll up their sleeves” and join in as part of a team effort.

Incorporate mentoring – We are firm believers in mentoring.  When employees learn from their peers, they learn faster and retain skills better. Make sure that the more experienced employees are passing along valuable skills to the new recruits (and not passing along traits you do not want to see repeated!)

Guide the worker toward a career – Countless minimum wage workers are recent high school graduates, college students and those persons new to our country. They may possess talents and abilities that would be of great value to your business – if they were encouraged to consider a career in your industry.

Respect – Many workers have never known respect. They are not aware that receiving and giving it changes them for the better. Telling them, “This is what we give you; this is what you give us,” can be extremely effective. A lack of respect also diminishes employees’ willingness to participate.

Little rewards go a long way – Many employers think that rewarding employees has to be expensive. Not so! Consider identifying outstanding employees with a specially made T-shirt, badge or button. Display a photograph where customers can see that they have been recognized as “Employee of the Month.” Provide a specially marked parking space close to the front door of your business and allow the employee to park there for a week or more.  Strategically place a bell with a sign where your employees serve customers. The sign could read: “If you’ve received good customer service, please ring the bell. Thank you. Our team.”

And finally . . . Keep in mind that motivation is an art and not a science.  You will have successes and failures. There is no exact formula to determine how to motivate people. What may work at one time – may not at another time.  Be flexible, creative, and above all, persistent.


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