As the economy continues to stumble along, many businesses are pushing their employees to do more with less. Some organizations are operating with smaller staffs, yet demanding maximum productivity. While many business owners might expect employees, grateful to have jobs, to work harder in this environment, that is not always the case.

Working under a cloud of uncertainty, employees are feeling increased fear and pressure, which does not create an atmosphere conducive to productivity. That’s why it’s critical that business owners create a workplace that employees not only want to be in, but also inspires them to be productive.

There are a number of actions that business owners can take to inspire employees to stay productive and stay put.

  • Treat employees fairly. While pay raises and bonuses might be out of the question or at least reduced for this year, it is important to ensure that employees are receiving fair pay according to their job responsibilities. Research competitors’ pay rates and aim to match them. Employees are not motivated on a day-to-day basis by what they get paid, but it is critical that they feel they are compensated fairly. When business (and the economy) is on an upswing, reinstate bonuses and merit raises, based on performance.
  • Frequently recognize employees for high performance. There are many ways to motivate by recognition. Formal programs are great but take care to ensure that they are meaningful. However, even simple praise for good work gives workers a sense of worth in relation to the organization and its mission.
  • Offer opportunities for growth in responsibility. If you have high-performing employees and you want to keep motivating them to do well, increase their responsibilities or promote them to a new position. Just make sure you aren’t making them work more hours without compensating them for it; that can be a de-motivator.
  • Make work enjoyable. Find out what employees like most about their work, and help them do those jobs more frequently. If an employee enjoys working with others vs. alone, try to find a team for him or her. It is also important that workers have the right tools needed to complete their jobs. Make sure the tools are ergonomic, easy or even fun to use.
  • Keep communication lines open. Workers should feel like they can approach their supervisors and upper management with questions, concerns or ideas. Nothing is less motivating than feeling like owners and managers do not care about or want to hear from workers. Listen to their complaints and learn about problems in the workplace. Offer opportunities for employees to provide suggestions or comments.

Now more than ever, employees are looking for ways to dispel feelings of uncertainty in their jobs. By communicating with employees about everything from business performance to their individual performance, they will feel more connected to their work and their purpose. Add in an environment of fairness, opportunities for recognition and some fun for a motivated workforce geared toward productivity and growth for your business.

Jim Peduto is the president of Matrix Integrated Facility Management and the co-founder of the American Institute for Cleaning Sciences.