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  • Dawn Reshen-Doty

To start a fire, you have to light a flame: How to motivate employees

Motivated employees can substantially influence a company's success, providing a solid foundation for business growth. Many small business owners understand the importance of having a team that is excited and that gives 100 percent, but they may not know how to inspire their employees. When employees are uninspired, they will do the minimum required of them, and turnover will also be higher. Some companies have discovered the key to motivating their employees, resulting in unparalleled stories of growth, success, and both employee and customer excitement.

Southwest Airlines: How to motivate employees by giving them a purpose.

Southwest Airlines has enjoyed consistent profits for the past 40 years and is celebrated for its excellent customer service. The employees are known for their friendliness and helpfulness, leading customers to come back to the airline again and again. How did the company manage to secure a staff that is so motivated and happy? The company did so by going beyond the act of writing a mission statement.

Many companies write mission statements and then promptly forget about them. In 2013, Southwest Airlines wrote a mission statement with the stated goal of becoming the most loved airline in the world. The company then provided a purpose for all of its employees to provide the best and friendliest customer service. To motivate its employees, the company uses storytelling to demonstrate the type of customer service that is the best. CEO Gary Kelly publicly praises employees who have gone above and beyond each week, and the company releases motivational videos telling inspirational stories of employees who have made a difference in the lives of their customers.

Hilcorp Energy: How to motivate employees by setting huge goals and giving huge rewards.

In Dec. 2015, Hilcorp Energy, a privately held oil and gas company, made national news when founder Jeffrey Hildebrand gave the company's nearly 1,400 employees bonuses of $100,000 each. Hilcorp has repeatedly made the list of the best companies to work for based on employee satisfaction. While most businesses could not match Hildebrand's largesse, the reasoning behind the bonuses illustrates how to motivate employees.

In 2005, Hildebrand set a 5-year goal to double the company's oil and gas production with the promise that the employees would all be given $50,000 vouchers for new cars or $35,000 in cash if they met the goal. In 2010, the company had doubled, and all of the employees received their bonuses. He then set a new 5-year goal to again double the company's production and came through with his promised $100,000 bonuses in 2015. In addition to giving monetary rewards, Hildebrand also inspires his employees to give. He provides matching contributions of $2,500 that employees can donate to the charities of their choice, resulting in the employees giving around $11 million back to their communities.

Motivating employees begins with creating an environment that encourages creativity and avoids micromanagement. By rewarding employees, recognizing their efforts, giving them goals and a purpose, companies can transform themselves into profitable and inspirational workplaces.

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