Hiring the right employee is only the start of a good relationship. To keep good employees, you have to motivate them to do their best. I urge you to incorporate as part of your personnel practices the following strategies to help your employees perform at full potential.

Make your expectations clear. When you tackle a task, you’ve probably already envisioned the results you’d like to achieve. Your workers may not be aware of those expectations. Sit down with them to define what you want and how it might be achieved. Ask the employees for their input. They’ll be more willing to implement the plan if they’ve had a part in developing it.

Reinforce the right behavior. A simple way to reinforce a desired behavior is to comment positively when you see it. Be flexible and reward outstanding performance at every opportunity.

Set goals and reward success. The size and nature of the reward depend on the size, scope and complexity of the accomplishment. Money, incentive trips, dinners, award plaques, and trophies are all ways of rewarding good employee performance. The goals that you set must be realistic and achievable, and the rewards need to be commensurate with the results.

Customize compensation. Think about what, specifically, may motivate each employee. It probably won’t be the same for all of them. Develop performance goals, and regularly review performance and reward employees for their efforts. You don’t always have to reward with money. Perks work well, too!

Don’t over-manage. Encourage your employees to be entrepreneurial. Give them freedom and personal control over their work.

Vary the incentive. Don’t offer the same reward for every achievement. Ask employees what they want, and be sure the rewards are fair and uniformly available to all.

Explain the mission. Be sure everyone has a clear understanding of your company’s overall mission and goals.

Impart a sense of urgency. A powerful tool for getting things done is instilling a sense of urgency among your staff. In fact, it can be crucial to your success. Here are four reasons why:

1. Credibility. Consistently delivering goods and services on or ahead of schedule is the foundation upon which customer confidence is built. Once credibility becomes part of your culture, it becomes a powerful incentive to maintain performance.

2. Opportunity. Many times, outstanding opportunities are lost over a lack of prompt action. Opportunities are time-sensitive. It you don’t seize them, you can bet your competitors will.

3. Lost profits. The difference between acceptable profits and outstanding profitability lies in the small increment of volume that exceeds your overhead costs. A sense of urgency allows the company to reach the profit potential in the last dollar of volume.

4. Pride. Teams that produce more and better work than the competition are proud of who they are and what they can do. This “team esteem” is essential to creating an organization that thrives on challenge and is capable of overcoming obstacles.

Though it’s important to create a sense of urgency, you don’t want to establish a sense of crisis. You don’t want your employees to be so focused on getting things done that they sacrifice quality for quantity. You can avoid that trap by injecting fun and humor into the workplace. People who have a sense of urgency and team esteem are energized. It shows in their positive attitudes and in their work. And it benefits you!

Here are some ways to create a sense of urgency:

1. Lead by example. Unless you set the tone and demonstrate a sense of urgency, no one else will. “Urgency” means setting priorities. Don’t treat everything as a crisis or everyone else will, too.

2. Set specific deadlines. Some people work better under a deadline. It communicates more urgency when you say, “I need this by 3 p.m. tomorrow” rather than saying, “Get this done as soon as possible.” Work expands to fit the time allowed. Giving someone more time to do a task rarely improves the performance. Instead, the extra time is spent fussing over details.

3. Raise the bar. Sometimes, people don’t perform to their potential because they think no one expects them to. By praising their performance you set new standards. Let them know that they are responsible for results and they’ll respond accordingly.

4. Encourage efficiency. Often, the truly time-saving and creative solutions will come from the staff — not from the top. But unless you encourage new ideas, they’ll never surface. When people see that their solutions are accepted and implemented, you’ll be amazed at how creative they become.

5. Make urgency fun. There’s a fine line between an action-oriented workplace and a stressful one. The difference is rooted in management’s attitude. If people are operating from a healthy sense of urgency, and they know they’re allowed to make mistakes while getting results, they’ll be more productive. And the company will be more profitable.

Product education is a must

One initial disadvantage to hiring an outside designer is that person’s unfamiliarity with your products and operation. It’s a good idea to develop an educational plan to bring outsiders up to speed. Have them work the order department and travel with your outside salesmen. Be sure they visit contractors, builders, architects, and any other customers you may have.

Such visits can be constructed to promote your new showroom attendant and showroom services. Also suggest that the attendant shop the competitors’ showrooms to learn what ideas work for them (and which ones don’t).

In addition, the attendant should become familiar with the local allied product showrooms, whether or not you have a referral system in place with these businesses. Such information can aid the attendant later by making him or her appear more professional and knowledgeable about the market.

Enlist the help of vendors, too. Plan on-site vendor visits or have the local rep conduct a training seminar. Don’t overlook the many special interest publications and trade journals in your field as reference sources your employees can read on their own. It should become a regular part of their job to be up-to-date on all of this information.

My next article, “Getting the Qualified Visitor to Come to Your Showroom,” will mark the start of my series on promoting your business. I hope you’ll join me then.