Motivation and talent management in SME (small and medium-sized enterprises)

According to a recent study, there is a clear connection between the productivity and the motivation of the employees. Pure common sense. However, very few SME (Small and Medium-Sized Enterprises) managers and owners consider this topic their priority. Perhaps it is a simple lack of time or thinking, but the truth is that only a minority manages employee motivation in a professional manner.
If we accept the expression "we have what we give", we should also accept that a mediocre people management will report us also mediocre performance results. We expect from our employees professionalism, commitment, initiative... and in compensation we only offer them an economic remuneration. This was never enough but nowadays much less. We should not forget that motivation is key to bound drastically the absenteeism, retain the best people and increase the quality of the engagement.
I can easily imagine a small business owner thinking: "I have more than enough bringing business daily to maintain the company alive to think on keeping employees happy. They should bring the motivation from home! Who does motivate me?" It's true that the principal source of motivation must be yourself and your personal attitude is the main ingredient. However we can't expect a high level of people engagement if we do not promote an inspiring leadership.

What can I do to increase my team engagement?
First of all, communicate. When was the last time you met all your team to inform them about details of the company strategy or objectives? As an initial step for your employees to accept the company's objectives as their own, you have to be sure they know and understand them. According to a survey from Manchester Consulting, one of the strongest confident builders is open communication about company's vision, values and objectives. And it is clear that trust is key to generate commitment.
Secondly, transparency  (be clear). In the SME environment all employees know each other and it is quite easy to detect when something is hidden intentionally. The lack of transparency creates mistrust and therefore lack of objectives alignment. You don't need to explain everything , but at least you should share the basic information that can make your collaborators feeling the project as their own.
Third, empathy. Are you hoping your employees perform to the limit if they do not receive or feel a minimum of empathy from your side? 
Let's remind that people are driven by emotions and therefore a reward and emotional reinforce is mandatory. When was the last time you congratulated one of your reports for a job well done? We say very often that the most important element for the company success is the people. So let's put it into practice.

A few tools to better manage the talent
There are some ways to align the team towards a common objective and make every employee a true ambassador of your company.
Remuneration. How many of your employees are paid based in the business they bring to the company? Including a variable retribution scheme in accordance with the results is a tool that really works. We are not talking of paying more for nothing: the rule is to compensate for the additional business. If we want a more commercial organisation, we should remunerate it. For example, why not compensate the administrative staff who is in contact with the customers if they bring business?
Training.  One of the SME managers biggest problems in a new employee search program is to identify the valid person. In a present time with a high unemployment rate, this task could look very easy, but it is not. They try to indentify candidates that can be ready 100% for work from the first day but unfortunately that is often very difficult to achieve.
 It is mandatory to invest time and resources in the staff development, not only in technical but also in other skills and company values. In many occasions we hear SME owners complain about the lack of employee motivation, commitment, ambition and passion. Why not try to train them in these values? The managers can be the best trainers for that. We know that this requires time and adeptness. Time can be found with a little effort and concerning the skills we should not forget there are external companies that can help. We know it is costly but the return is clearly justified.
Development (future plan). Do you have a future plan project for your business? I am sure you have. At least you'll have expectations, dreams for whose you are working hard every day. Fine: your employees are not different than you, they also have expectations and if these are not fulfilled in your company they will move to other when the market situation improve. Have you ever considered that your employees have profesional aspirations and if they can reach them in your company they will keep engaged? If not yet, do it. The development programmes in big companies are complex but in a small ones are much easier. Try to identify the talent, ask and offer a true future link to a challenging plan. I give you some examples:  “If you perform in the actual position you will have more responsibility next year” or you will have a x % of the company if in x years you double your sales”.
In summary, it’s true that the employee motivation should come from home, but at the same time it can also be developep in the working space.
 The keys? Communication, transparency and empathy.
 The tools? Remuneration, training and a development plan.
Nothing in this article is fiction science. It’s easy to accept to any small business owner that the lack of motivation of the staff causes a lack of productivity and effectivity and to achieve the business goals we need a motivated, engaged and committed team!
I know that most of the companies use some of these tooIs, but they often do so in a non-structured way. In these cases, the challenge is to integrate all of them, add what is missing and create a follow up action plan aligned with the company goals.

Versión en español aquí