So! You’ve hired on a gifted team of virtual contractors. You’ve invested time and energy training them so they know exactly how to handle the work they do for your business.
Everyone is up to speed and cranking out copy, graphics, and strategies like the seasoned pros that they are. Or they were until recently …
Maybe you’ve noticed a little slacking; a project that slides in a day late, a deliverable that’s not quite up to snuff.
Or maybe you’ve sensed some restlessness among your virtual team members in their correspondence. They’re a little bit snippy on the phone, or curt over email.
You’re paying them well and keeping them busy, but something still isn’t quite right. And you’re worried that if you don’t make it right soon, you might start losing them to new gigs with other business owners.
While shifts in behavior like this can be caused by family stress, health issues, and literally thousands of other factors, one of the most common causes is lack of motivation. Once someone has left the learning curve, they may get bored and complacent, especially if the right incentives aren’t already in place. And as the business owner, it falls to YOU to provide those incentives.
Luckily, I’ve got 3 foolproof ways to keep your virtual team members engaged, invested, and motivated to do their best work every day!
Motivate Your Virtual Team Members by Giving Them Autonomy
Just so we’re clear, this does NOT mean ignoring your contractor’s questions or responding to every query with, “Whatever. You decide!” This is your business, and you need to have both a long-term plan and short-term ideas that drive your team members’ actions.
However, once they’re trained in and clear on your business vision, give them some space and trust them to make some decisions. If you hover and micromanage, you’ll make it clear that you don’t trust them … and nothing is more de-motivating than lack of trust.
Give your virtual team members some real autonomy, and follow it up with praise when things go well; doing so indicates that you value their insights, independence, and talents.
Motivate Your Virtual Team Members by Understanding What Drives them
Contrary to popular belief, money is not the only motivator in the world. I mean, OBVIOUSLY money is important and underpaying your freelancers will be the kiss of death for your team!
But study after study has shown that certain people need other types of reinforcement to truly thrive. Some want public praise, some want consistent challenges, some want leadership opportunities, some want creative input, some want gifts or other rewards for stellar work. If you assume that all of your contractors are motivated by the same things, you’re missing out.
It can take a bit of detective work to determine each virtual team member’s preferred motivator, but do a little sleuthing when you can. And if investigating on the sly fails, just ask!
At a regular check-in meeting, throw out a few options and see what lights them up.
Say, “I’m wondering what you feel is missing from your participation here. Do you wish you got more praise from me? More input on big projects?”
Run down the list until you get a genuinely enthusiastic response.
Motivate Your Virtual Team Members by Celebrating Together
Direct praise is (almost) never a bad idea; Whenever a contractor does something outstanding, say so!
And then take that praise to the next level by sharing team wins, business wins, and strategic wins. Even if a specific initiative was driven by a single person—and even if that person was you—make it clear that each virtual team member made the success possible.
After all, you may have closed the deal, but if you didn’t have amazing contractors handling social media, product launches, and communications, you wouldn’t have had time to close the deal yourself. Even if their work was in the background, their support made the win possible. So tell them that. Share the wins.
And on the flip side, take full responsibility for your losses. The less you blame your contractors, the more motivated they’ll be to keep working hard on your behalf.
When corrective action is necessary, take it, of course … but whenever possible, be vocal about your role as a leader in blunders and missteps. Doing so will show you care.
It’ll take some time and effort to make sure all 3 of these strategies are in place and sustainable for you unique business structure, but it’s time and effort well-spent.
After all, you don’t want to lose your talented, trained-in, super-efficient virtual team members, do you?
Of course not!
So make sure they’re motivated consistently, and in ways that truly work for THEM.