Four Strategies to Keep Employees Motivated

Sept. 1, 2018
How do you keep staff motivated and positive during the day? In a perfect world, bays would stay full from open to close, but in reality, there are down times. What we do during these down times really affects the overall attitude of the shops.

How do you keep staff motivated and positive during the day? Sometimes things get slow around the shop, and that’s when complacency and laziness creep in. I use the old theory that a happy employee makes happy customers. 

In a perfect world, bays would stay full from open to close, but in reality, there are down times. For us, these times vary from location to location and often vary by day of the week. What we do during these down times really affects the overall attitude of the shops. This time is of value and can be used to create culture in our shops.


You have probably heard the phrase, “If you have time to lean, you have time to clean.” Cleaning and stocking is just the nature of the business and should be done throughout the day, as needed. In those slow times, it’s a great time to tackle a cleaning project that has been put to the side. Use the downtime for more than just general cleaning, but identify a particular area of need, and focus the staff’s attention to that area. One of the things we have done in the past is freshen up the paint on our bulk tanks. We calculated that we could paint a tank in one hour. Each day our goal was to paint a single tank during the slow time. Over the course of two weeks, we were able to get all of the tanks painted and another project marked off the list. 


Training should never be limited to a day or time. When you see a trend in downtime, then use this time to train. Make it fun for the employees; challenge them and reward them. In the military, we used the phrase, “Train like you fight; fight like you train.” How we train is how we perform. During the busy, stressful times of day, you will see the payoff from training.

Don’t limit your training to sales training. Get them on YouTube learning to reset maintenance lights on difficult vehicles. Get a few old oil pans from the salvage yard and teach them how to tap an oil pan. Any area where you see an employee struggling is an opportunity to train. I had an employee who always struggled with the question, “Is synthetic really worth it?” I had previously talked him through it on several occasions with little success. I went and found several online articles about the benefits of synthetic. After reading through it himself and doing his own research he finally “got” it. People learn at different speeds and by different methods. Don’t be scared to use whatever it takes to make your training effective. 


You know how much you are invested in your business, but how much are you invested in your employees? Invested employees are involved, not just informed. These employees have invested time and talent. Small gestures go a long way in proving to them that you will invest in them and their professional growth.

Everyone wants the opportunity to grow. Talk those guys through what it will take them to advance to the next level. Give them the tools to succeed and make that next advancement. Reimburse them for professional or personal development classes. Many local and state colleges offer classes that your employees could use in the day-to-day running of your business. Years ago, I went to a class called “The Five Types of Employees and How to Handle Them” at the local university. I have referenced my notes from that class several times over the years.

Turn over tasks to anyone who shows potential leadership. Do you have a weekly safety meeting? Find an employee and give them the responsibility of leading the meeting. Just recently we promoted a guy to training supervisor. The promotion is mainly in the name itself, but it gave him a role and a responsibility. Simply put, he’s over all aspects of how we train. I’ve had him in each shop watching and helping train new people. In his downtime, he works on training material that we use at all of our locations. 

Let them go serve at a non-profit that is near to their heart. Better yet, go with them while they serve. Spending that time with the employee builds a lasting relationship. 


As a manager/owner, employees look up to you (or they should). Take time to get to know them. Get to know their likes and dislikes. Celebrate their accomplishments at work, as well as their accomplishments away from work. They will bring their struggles to work with them. Take time to sit down and walk through the tough issues with them. They value your opinion. Those 20- to 30-minute breaks are a great time to sit down with them and really dig into who they are and what they are passionate about. 

Years ago, the owner showed up to my door on a Sunday after hearing my father passed away. He spent the rest of the day by my side guiding me at a time when I needed it the most. Those types of actions cannot be repaid. They do, however, create a loyalty and respect beyond the typical employee/boss relationship. 

These four items are only a small portion of the things you can use to fill your downtime. Be creative, be fun and be rewarding. The payoff is worth it not only for you, but for them, as well.