Recognize. Reward. Repeat.

The whys and hows of motivating your paint crews

As a painting contractor, you may believe that your team of employees is fairly compensated, appears generally content in their jobs, and is as motivated as they need to be.

Take a closer look, however. Could a more motivated team be more efficient and more productive? A recent study by Talent Works International reports that happy, motivated employees experience 31 percent more productivity and take 10 times fewer sick days.

Could a more empowered team take larger roles in leadership, freeing you up to grow your business, or simply take a step or two away from the day-to-day challenges of being in charge? A SalesForce study reports that employees who feel their voices are heard are 4.6 times more likely to feel empowered to take greater ownership of their roles and perform their best work.

And conversely, is there an underlying sense of complacency and disinterest in your team, or perhaps a lack of morale that is putting a difficult-to-identify but very real drag on productivity? Studies have long shown that the repeated assignment of highly simplified, repetitive tasks can result in low employee motivation causing high absentee rates and employee turnover, both of which can be crippling to a painting contractor.

In any case, motivating your team should often be top-of-mind as you manage your operations. And studies have found that money is not the only carrot on the stick that can drive your workforce to greater achievement.

The following summarizes a variety of motivational discussion points from other trades and industries, all of which could be applied to a painting contractor’s working environment. We’ll break the discussion into three key categories: Recognize, Reward, and Repeat.

Recognize. A recent Harris poll of 1,000 U.S. workers shows that “not recognizing employee achievements” is the no. 1 issue that prevents leadership from being effective, appearing on 63 percent of worker responses. The simple act of acknowledging a job well done goes further than a lot of people think. Remember that words matter, so be generous in praise when and where it is deserved, and give credit where credit is due.

Feedback is always important — even when it isn’t glowing praise. Honest mistakes will happen in an environment that recognizes and empowers employees to solve problems and create solutions. Correct those honest mistakes, but don’t punish them.

Recognition is also meaningful when you have an open ear for your employees’ ideas. Remember, they’re at the forefront of your efforts, and might best be able to suggest process improvements. Engage and encourage them. And enacting their ideas is a surefire means of telling them that you value their input, and not just their ability to put paint on the wall.

Additionally, painting is a business in which productivity can be clearly measured. Set clear goals and objectives for your crews and acknowledge their achievement, and you’ll see your goals realized more often than not.

Reward. To be certain, monetary rewards always will be a key motivator. These can be bonuses for achieving productivity or quality goals, the promise of a raise, or a company profit-sharing structure that clearly shows employees that what benefits the company also benefits them. The more directly these rewards are tied to an employees’ deeds or ideas, the better.

However, money gets spent, and its motivating effects can be temporary. So consider showing your employees the bigger picture. Reward them with a career path that promises greater responsibility if, for example, they demonstrate new proficiencies. You’ll both win if you develop employees who have expanded their capability to contribute and hope to take their career to the next level.

Unsure about how your employees would most like to be rewarded? Ask! Provide options for the new parent, for example, who might most appreciate a paid day off, or the sports fan who might better enjoy tickets to an upcoming event. While it’s OK to suggest, it’s usually most impactful to let them decide how they’d like to be rewarded for their accomplishments.

Repeat. The above ideas can’t be one-offs in order to be effective over the long-term. You’re not curing a case of worker disinterest and disengagement — you’re building a culture in which worker disinterest and disengagement don’t take root, so you should ensure that your motivation tactics aren’t one-time rallies. For best results, build a standing, recognition-rich culture of motivation.

Make work a fun place to be, as much as possible. Your paint crews are out and about, but the promise of a round of coffee, a box of donuts, a lottery ticket or a post-work happy hour can get your workers enthused about showing up for the day.

Also, remember that your employees are not machines. As best you can, learn what makes them tick personally. We all react to motivational prompts differently, so be sure your program has the flexibility to get the best out of each and every one of your employees.