Motivating employees and making them feel like valued members of the team has always been at the core of how Jason Musch, owner and president of Dutch Valley Landscape Contractors, has run his business. He says “without our employees, we are nothing.”
Even so, in the past, the Chicago-area landscape maintenance company has experienced problems with employees being disengaged or unmotivated. Like so many other landscape businesses, Musch was looking for ways to keep employees engaged and encouraged to work hard.
After paying his bill at a restaurant one day—and leaving a tip—an idea came to him. Musch implemented a rewards system based on a simple point scale—much like a waiter or waitress is motivated to earn a tip. At the beginning of the month, each employee was given four points. Employees lost points for mistakes (such as failing to wear uniforms or damaging equipment) throughout the month. Then, on Friday of the following month, they turned in each point for a bean bag. Employees tossed bean bags for monetary rewards.
It was a great idea—and it was working well—but it wasn’t scalable. As the business grew, tracking the points and finding time to let everyone play bean bag toss was becoming too much for the growing business.
Musch switched things up, learning a lot in the process.
Motivating Employees Tip #1: Make it Scalable
The scalability of the motivator is a big factor Musch didn’t initially consider. The bean bag toss game worked well when the business was smaller, but as it grew and gained employees it became a time drain on the administrative staff.
“It became a lot to keep track of all of the employees’ points,” Musch says. “When I recognized it was taking up too much office time, I decided we needed something new.”
Therefore, Musch implemented a “kick-off party” in between the landscape maintenance and snow seasons to thank employees for their hard snow removal work and geared them up for the new landscape maintenance season. The parties include food and some simple prizes like gift cards and company gear. With an attendance rate close to 100 percent, Musch says it’s been great.
“When we decided to make the change, it was important that we didn’t discourage employees by doing something new,” Musch says. “But the party has been very well-received.”
Motivating Employees Tip #2: Involve Families if You’re Taking up Free Time
The previous reward program was handled during business hours, but switching to a party meant asking employees to give up some of their “free time.” As a result, including each employee’s family was really important to the success of the event.
“We are very respectful of our team’s time,” Musch says. “We are aware they already give up quite a bit of their time to come work for us—and to provide for their families—but we didn’t want this kickoff party to mean giving up any additional family time. So, we invite families.”
Motivating Employees Tip #3: Make it a Team Effort
Singling out individual employees is one area in which Musch has always tread cautiously. In everything he does, Musch tries to make it about the “team.” That’s why he’s shied away from handing out individual employee rewards.
“I know a lot of companies do ‘Employee of the Month’ or other individual awards, and if that works for you, you should do it,” Musch says. “But it’s an area where we have to be careful. If the effort is about motivating everyone, I don’t want to demotivate someone because they didn’t win. Alternatively, when we reward the whole team, it seems to work better.”
Motivating Employees Tip #4: Don’t Let Budget Hold You Back
No matter what size your business is—or your budget—Musch is a firm believer there’s a motivation tactic out there that’s right for you. It doesn’t have to be an extravagant or expensive affair, but you should do what you can to keep your employees motivated. Don’t let budget hold you back, Musch says. For instance, something is better than nothing, even if it’s a small effort.
“You have to find what works for you,” he says. “It doesn’t have to be over the top; our party certainly isn’t. However, it should show your employees you care about them. That’s exactly what this party does. We don’t spend a ton of money, but we feed everyone, we hand out some rewards and we make it fun. That shows our team we care.
“In the end, that’s what matters,” he adds. “Our employees are really important to us and we want them to know that.”