How do you improve morale in tough times? by Rebeca Mojica

Keeping employees motivated is a crucial component of business success, and can be especially challenging in an economy in which many business owners need to rein in payroll costs.

My crafts-industry business,  Blue Buddha Boutique, has bootstrapped from the very beginning. After all, I started this chainmaille jewelry supplies company with only $20 and a pair of pliers! Once I began hiring people, I knew I wouldn’t be able to pay top dollar. So instead, I found alternative ways to let employees know how much I value them.

In our most recent quarterly employee survey, nearly every staffer wrote that Blue Buddha is the best work environment they’ve ever been in. Below are some of the low-cost perks and procedures that are part of our company culture. If other businesses incorporate these or similar perks, I would bet that their productivity and employee morale would increase exponentially.

1) Good communication and transparency
We empower employees to find solutions to problems and ask them what we can do to make their jobs easier. Through quick daily “pow-wows,” weekly meetings with supervisors, quarterly surveys and semi-annually staff-wide meetings, we keep them in the loop, whether the company is doing well or facing problems.

2) Chocolate!
Employees receive a couple of pieces of high-quality chocolate on payday. Money and chocolate: it doesn’t get better than that, right?

3) Paid birthdays
Employees can take their birthday off and receive pay. Or, they can work and take the extra money.

4) “Spring fun hour”
On the first warm day of the season, employees can leave an hour early and get paid. I know how it is on that first warm day–no one wants to be cramped in a tiny office, and I figure productivity is likely to plummet anyway. So why not let ’em get out and have some fun. Winter is too long and depressing in Chicago!

5) Happy hour Friday
After 3 p.m. on Fridays, employees can have a drink on the house (yes, alcoholic, if you’re over 21, and juice or soda for the young uns). And, our culture is such that if we are on a company deadline, the cocktails may wait a bit. Our team is proud of our customer service.

6) Healthy, local snacks
Instead of soda and chips, we shop at local mom-and-pop produce stores (and the Farmers Market, when it is in season) to give employees healthy things to munch on while they work.

My employees know I respect them as individuals. Morale is high and productivity is through the roof. As a result, our customer service is legendary. We regularly get unsolicited kudos by email, phone and on our page on Facebook for our amazing service. I’ve never met a more dedicated bunch of employees. Since I started hiring in 2007, only one person has left, and that’s because he moved out of state. We now have a staff of 10.

Rebeca Mojica
Rebeca is an award-winning chainmaille artist and instructor. She founded Blue Buddha Boutique, the Midwest’s largest supplier of chainmaille jewelry with customers in all 50 states and 40 countries. She is the author of Chained: Create Gorgeous Chain Mail Jewelry One Ring at a Time.

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One Response

  1. Rebeca proves that especially in this economy, it’s not just money that talks. No one wants to be treated like a number, and these little human touches go a LONG way with staff. Being grateful to have a job *at all* will only take you so far when the bills are due. Being able to look forward to going into work (where we spend more time than with our families) can make all the difference in the world to a person’s happiness.

    Congrats to Rebeca for getting it right from the start! (It also helps that she is her staff member’s biggest fan as she encourages them in their individual artistic endeavors!)

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