In an age where technology is used in every facet of business, it can be easy to forget the most important factor in any business is its people.

We have all had conversations, complaints actually, about automated calls, having to talk to a machine; press too many buttons; go back to the menu and then you lose the call.  Maybe not all the time but it does happen.

Many of us will go online to research a product, read reviews, compare prices and then we still like to go the store to see the product, touch it, smell it and talk to a real person and this doesn’t just apply to baby boomers.

Robots are a great innovation particularly for the constantly repetitive tasks which make a human brain dead after a period of time and risky jobs, better to send in a bomb disposal robot than a than a talented person.

Technology does have its place but so does customer service and most of us appreciate a friendly face and at least a friendly voice especially when we have a problem.

It will be a long time yet before a business will be devoid of human staff, so how do you keep staff motivated, enjoying their work and therefore productive?

Hiring the right people is an obvious factor and it is worth going beyond the perfect resume at times to ensure you get the right person.  There are times when your instincts will tell you someone is worth talking to, so do it and don’t just talk about the job, find out about the “person.”

Have a flexible workplace.  Not everyone is a morning person.  Not everyone can work full-time and you may have some great applicants in this situation, so job share and you can have two great people on the job, two for the price of one!

Picture1 cashflowBe open about the business, keep the team informed.  Treat staff as a team, you are all in the business together.  Inclusion is a good thing, an empowering environment, it tells people they are valued.  Inclusion means listening, which is more important than talking and will encourage ideas and the use of initiative.

It is interesting to see how many articles have been written about improving staff meetings, the biggest improvement in this area is to have less of them.  Less but more meaningful meetings with a thoughtful agenda, clearly defined goals and a set time frame, with efficient follow-up.  Make them count and if an impromptu conversation can achieve the same result do it.

Trust and respect your team to do their jobs.  Micro managers, most of us have experienced them, don’t do a thing to build confidence, encourage independent thought and they do annoy most people to distraction, even resignation.  You have hired them, you must have believed they can do the job and until there is real evidence that they can’t, let them get on with it.

Acknowledge success, achievements, sound ideas and productivity, all the good things and say thank you, probably the two most under-valued words and the most appreciated.  It doesn’t have to be done with lavish gifts, trips overseas or bonuses, a team get-together with some nibbles and drinks are good.

Finally, review your own management practices on a regular basis.  You may be your own worst enemy and the difference between a happy team and a non-productive one.  Be honest with yourself and be able to accept criticism, it may just be productive.