5 Strategies to Motivate and Keep Great Employees

At 2019 Summer NAMM, Marshall Music President Jimmy Edwards shared his strategies for building a successful team, drawing from his experience managing more than 300 employees and seven music stores. He led an inspiring NAMM Idea Center session designed to help music businesses motivate and keep passionate, dedicated employees.

Edwards explained that employees of all ageswant to feel motivated, inspired and a sense of accomplishment. Your business depends upon you being able to turn to dependable, engaged employees, and your professional life will get easier as a result.

1. Training
• Someone in your company should be talking about training. It doesn’t have to be solely the owner’s responsibility. It can be managers, other team members or new employees who make training a priority.

• It’s not only product training. Soft skills, such as conflict resolution, management, communication and customer service, are also necessary.

• Get people out of their departments—no silos! Explore training opportunities in other areas of your business. Edwards shared that he has executives learning how to clean instruments and managers learning how to do deliveries. Opportunities to learn help keep employees engaged.

• Look to your suppliers for help. Ask your vendors how they can help with training, including sales training. Then, schedule it. Make sure it’s on the calendar, or it may not happen.

• Get your employees out of the building. Explore training opportunities at local seminars, business watch groups, education-rep ride-alongs and tradeshows, such as The NAMM Show and Summer NAMM. Your employees will feel good about it.

2. Leader Interaction
• This is a great way to inspire new employees. Edwards related his experience of spending time with the owner of Marshall Music when starting at the company almost 20 years ago. Through these frequent interactions, he learned things he never would have otherwise, and he was inspired.

• Share stories from the top. Edwards advised leaders to greet employees. (If you don’t know someone’s name, you should.) Perhaps let them know if the company had a good month.

• Don’t assume that topics are over their heads. Edwards mentioned that he got some helpful ideas by sharing stories about sales reports with frontline employees.

• Invite employees to meetings. Give your employees opportunities to attend meetings they might not otherwise participate in. After the meeting, ask what they thought, and follow up with them.

• Work alongside your employees. Edwards shared that getting his hands dirty has proven to be the most effective way to engage and inspire staff. Nobody wants to feel as if you’re too busy for them. Find one of your employees, work with them and buy them lunch. It can be a simple sandwich. The one-to-one interaction is powerful.

• Acknowledge your employees’ expertise. Tell them how good they are.

3. Clarity on Performance and Growth Opportunities
• Clarity is the key word. Employees wants to know how they’re doing, what they can expect to do tomorrow and next week, when they’re going to get training and when they’re going to make more money. You can have these conversations with them.

• Performance evals—not too corporate. Edwards introduced performance evaluations with the goal of having a discussion with employees about how they feel about working and being at Marshall Music. He emphasized that this wasn’t about rating employees as much as creating a dialogue, and it was successful. Edwards recommended tailoring performance evals to your company’s culture.

• Talk about success and failure. Talk louder! Use meaningful language and not just “good job.” Have meaningful conversations that let your employees know why their actions are helpful. (Communicate a tangible result.)

• Ask people where they want to be. Edwards stated it’s important to have open conversations and that this topic can be fun.

• Discuss raises. Your employees deserve a discussion on compensation. Don’t defer talking about it. Many times, an answer is all that’s needed. Don’t be afraid to discuss pay ceilings. You can also use this time to have a discussion about other opportunities at the company.

4. Goal Setting
• You say you have them, but can I see them? Make sure your employees put their goals on paper.

• Employees react better to tangible, measurable goals. If they’re written, they’re more likely to meet them.

• You should have at least one formal system in place for company goals. Create a visual reference for where you want to be as a company. Edwards shared that Marshall Music uses a 90-day format to record and track company goals.

• Goals—a great place to start. Get a whiteboard—get several. Start a daily huddle (20 minutes) and weekly huddle (one hour) for your employees to interact with each other and post their goals. Cross off goals when they’re completed. Ask your employees how they feel about the process.

5. Working With a Purpose
Edwards stressed that your employees want meaningful work, perhaps now more than ever. Reflect on the following, and remind yourself and your employees of what you do:

• This is a special industry we work in.
• Making music changes lives.
• Inspire yourself. Then you can inspire others.
• Employees need to have a purpose (besides a paycheck).