Happy Employees, Happy Shop

Summer is a busy time of year for bike shops, and sometimes things can get a little hectic. In times of stress, recognizing your employees for all their hard work can help keep them happy — and keep your shop running smoothly. This month, Call Up shares some ideas on how to appreciate and motivate the workers who help make your shop work.

Repair tickets cascading out of the form rack. Twice as many customers browsing around than staff available. Not a single 5mm hex wrench in site. This can only mean one thing: it’s summertime at the bike shop.

Sure, the season is great for business, but it can also be especially difficult for your hard-working employees, impacting their stress level and performance. During these busy days and nights, it’s crucial not to let employee happiness slip.

Employee rewards and recognition, or R&R, is the main ingredient in keeping a valuable staff content, not to mention keeping shop profits growing. In fact, the advantages of implementing a robust employee reward and recognition program can greatly outweigh the costs. Consider the proven benefits, which may include:

  • Increased productivity and teamwork among employees
  • Greater customer satisfaction
  • Improved employee retention and lower absenteeism
  • More positive culture within your organization

When you consider employee rewards and recognition, think in terms of a cost-benefit analysis. For small business owners and team managers, R&R programs may seem like a risky effort with the potential to yield few noticeable returns. Truth is, the gains are often far greater than the costs.

R&R Doesn’t Require Cash

It helps to keep in mind that R&R programs don’t have to break your bank. While most employees will certainly not turn down monetary rewards, many are merely looking for recognition of their hard work.

“Cash is no longer the ultimate motivator,” states Patricia Odell in an online article for Inc. Magazine. Citing data from the Forum for People Performance Management and Measurement at Northwestern University, Odell concludes that non-cash awards programs “work better than cash in such cases as reinforcing organizational values and cultures, improving teamwork, increasing customer satisfaction and motivating specific behaviors."

Big or Small, Recognition Matters

The point is, recognition matters — no matter how you do it. As Steve Kunath a mechanic from Grand Rapids Bicycle Company and former manager from Ada Bike Shop notes: “There are a lot of ways to keep employees in the shop engaged and excited about the work they do. Anything from demo bike use to regular meals with your team all go a long way. Bonuses are sometimes hard to come by in the shop, but if you can give someone a little extra monetary compensation for a job well-done, nobody is going to argue with that.”

Employee recognition can come in many forms, from a simple high-five to a more structured rewards program involving spiffs, bonuses, even profit sharing. More casual, less costly ideas for recognition can include:

  • Activities – Informal and fun activities, like paintball or kayaking, can get employees to enjoy each other’s company outside of work. These energetic sessions are unique ways to unite your team, demonstrate your appreciation, and keep employees engaged.
  • Offsite Meetings — Something as simple as having an employee meeting at the coffee shop nearby work (with you picking up the tab) can go a long way, too.
  • Time Bonuses — Another idea is to give out “Hour Off” certificates, allowing your staff to save them up for an unplanned day off. There’s many ways to say thanks, and what could be better than the gift of time?
  • Social Thanks — Use your shop’s social media to call out your employee’s talents and specific triumphs on the job. A thoughtful Facebook post or sweet tweet makes your appreciation public.
  • Fulfilling Projects —  Give your employees time during the week to work on a work-related passion project. This shows that you care about what drives them and will work toward improving their livelihood.
  • Food — Glorious food. Food is important. It fuels performance and boosts morale. Buying pizza for lunch, or grabbing donuts in the morning, even vegetables (depending) — these can all help employees feel appreciated, seen, and taken care of. When it comes to food, most employees will react in a positive way.

While there are many ways to reward your employees, being creative and judicious in the ways you choose to reward them demonstrates your commitment to keeping staff happy and appreciated.

Thanks for the Memories

R&R activities can also result in great team-building experiences that become lasting memories for your employees. In doing research for this article, Call Up spoke with Glenn Dussl, a buyer with QBP and former shop manager at Erik’s Bike Shop. Glenn shared a story about making the shop’s service area work in everyone’s favor saying, “As the manager, I would encourage everyone to save all of the aluminum scrap in the shop: rims, kick stand scraps, seat posts, anything. Then I’d go trade them in for some cash at the local scrap yard, and use the money to buy meat and beer for a great shop BBQ. We did this for a whole summer and were able to get a pretty decent haul on our scrap — and some pretty decent food in our bellies.”

That said, recognition is not a one-size-fits-all activity. Sometimes, more deliberate thought is required to ensure your rewards will hit the mark. So don’t be hesitant to go the simple route and just ask your employees: Hey, what would you like?

Reward (and Unite) Your Staff with Cycling

Bike shop employees are bike people to the core, so it makes sense that supporting their riding habits can go a long way. Meeting for a pre-work rip around the local trail system can get employees excited about the work day ahead. Regular staff rides and events are simple and effective ways of keeping morale high when the workload is at its peak. The shop employee who takes time to lead road rides twice a week would probably love to have a “company car” so he or she is riding the newest, latest technology. This not only helps your employees stay current with market and technology trends, it keeps them excited to talk about those industry trends with customers.

We’re all intimately familiar with the myriad of benefits that cycling offers – from better health to social gathering to a deeper connection with nature. With cycling-inspired R&R, you can give your employees the gift of those benefits throughout the busy season.

Don’t Play the Waiting Game

Did you know that the very timing of your recognition can impact its effectiveness? Don’t wait to acknowledge an employee for their performance in the moment. Celebrate birthdays, work anniversaries, or congratulate your employees when all the tickets in that overflowing repair form rack have all made it into the “done” category. The idea is to let employees know they matter to you 24/7.

And not every act of recognition has to be a grand display. In fact, little gestures can make a world of difference. Many employees respond well to a well-timed ‘thank you’ and other forms of in-the-moment recognition that acknowledges their abilities, performance, and ideas.

Recognize Wisely and Often

It helps to create guidelines as to what accomplishments will be recognized and regularly check in with managers and staff to make sure everyone is getting the recognition they deserve. Also helpful is setting a budget aside for employee recognition — that way you’ll always be able to reward employees for their hard work.

Last but not least, check in with your staff. Use your intuition. Gauge their mood, productivity, enthusiasm — and don’t be afraid to reach out to them. Angie von Ruden-Doll, head of the HR department at QBP echoes this sentiment:  “Shop leaders can create their own R&R program by asking employees what they would like from it. Set some boundaries and ask for their input. If you use this approach, be prepared to implement at least some of the things they ask for, otherwise they may wonder why you bothered to ask for their input in the first place.”

Remember, empathy is key. Ask yourself, if you were employee, what you would need. Because when that busy season hits, as an employer, you’re going to need a healthy shop full of motivated workers. Having a solid R&R strategy will help you and your staff get there.

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