Incentives for Employees

April 8, 2008 by Mobile Beat Staff Writer

Over the last 17 years, I have learned (in most cases the hard way) the formulas for success in the mobile DJ business. Some of those ingredients include professional attire and conduct, being reliable, interacting with the audience and entertaining, instead of just playing music. These are concepts that are the backbone of any successful mobile DJ operation.
But how can you motivate an entire staff of DJs to buy into these concepts? Since most of your employees are probably part-timers, you must provide an incentive for them to uphold your company’s hard-earned reputation. I have been successful in motivating my staff in three ways:Money.
Positive Reinforcement of Company Standards.
Creating a Positive Company Image and Work Environment.

This is something that has worked very well for my company. Obviously, there must be some incentive for a new employee to adopt your standards of performance and conduct. In the form of pay raises, money can be used to make your new DJ work hard to conform to these standards. I do not accept the concept that you should start a new DJ at a given level of pay, with top pay achievable within six months. In this instance, my experience has shown that an employee will conform to your company standards for six months. Once they reach the top of the pay scale, however, they’ll start to slack off. There is simply no incentive for the employee to improve their performances, and there is less incentive for them to adhere to the rules and regulations that you set forth. This employee has topped out too quickly.

Instead, I prefer a step system, where the employee receives pay raises on a regular basis. This gives the new DJ an incentive to conform to your standards. With this method, the employee typically develops good work and performance habits over a longer period of time.

For example, in my company I start my staff at approximately 25-percent of the gross income for a given job (base pay), and I award pay raises every four to six months. The DJ can expect to achieve top pay (about 55-percent) after two to three years (depending on the quality of performance). The same goes for overtime pay. Beginner DJs net 33-percent of overtime income, which increases to 100-percent after two to three years of employment.

Pay raises are awarded for positive performance. This makes the employee performance evaluation extremely important to your staff. My staff knows that a pay raise is not awarded unless they have performed to the level we expect. By giving new hires a blank copy of our employee performance evaluation upon the completion of their training, we are communicating to them our expectations. There is no mystery about what is expected of them in order to be awarded a pay raise. See last month’s issue of DJ Times for specifics on employee evaluations.

In addition to pay raises, money, in the form of more frequent work, can motivate your staff too. To DJs who conform to company standards we offer more bookings; conversely, we also limit the amount of work given to those employees who tend to bend the rules. All things being equal, seniority decides who works and who doesn’t on a given weekend. However, my staff knows that if they do not make every effort to comply with the performance standards that I set for them, they will not work as often.

It’s also important for the multi-system manager to have at all times extra staff available. This I do for quality control, in the event that a DJ calls in sick or quits with little or no notice. But I also do this because I believe my employees, aware that other capable DJs are on staff to replace them, are more apt to comply with our standards of performance and conduct. Ever notice how employees tend to bend the rules when they know that you absolutely need them?

There is one financial element that has been most successful in motivating my staff to give their all at each performance: we suggest to clients, in our company contract, that they tip the DJ when quality services have been rendered. This “suggested” gratuity has changed the culture of our DJ service. Why? It’s simple. My staff knows there is something in it for them. Why should your DJ bust tail as an entertainer, night in and night out, when they receive the same paycheck for every gig performed?

Instead of going through the motions, our staff now works extremely hard to perform and entertain at every event. This is especially true at smaller events of only 50 to 100 people. In the past, our DJs slacked off at these events. Now, their tip at the end of the night may be riding on whether they get out there and motivate and entertain these guests.

Since we added the “suggested” gratuity in our contract – about 75-percent of our clients comply — a staff DJ can typically earn tips of $50 to $100 per gig. To me, this is a win/win situation for everyone: First, the client receives better service; second, the DJ’s income is boosted without costing the parent company a dime; and last, the company’s reputation as a professional DJ service is enhanced with better performances.

Positive Reinforcement of Company Standards.

Throughout our company training manual we frequently refer to things that elicit tips from clients (dressing professionally, punctuality, etc.). This makes it easier to get the new DJ-in-training to buy into your performance standards. In the past, I would explain to a new employee every one of my standards, emphasizing their importance to providing professional mobile DJ services. These new hires would simply have to take my word for it. Now, I approach them with these same concepts and I strongly suggest that their tip at the end of the night may hinge on whether they follow through with them.

Creating a Positive Company Image and Work Environment.

You can also motivate your staff by working to keep a first-class reputation. A positive company image is important to the customer who hires you, yes, but it’s also important to your staff. Most people like to be associated with an organization that’s developed a good reputation in the community. Or at least I’d like to think so.

Your DJs should understand the business side of DJing – the side that built your good name. If you have worked hard in your market to establish a first-class reputation, your name will most likely be at the top of the list for referrals by banquet hall managers. Very often, the importance of such referrals will be lost on your DJs. I always tell them that other DJ companies in our area would love to be on these lists. Reinforce to your staff that your name on the list is directly linked to your standards of conduct and performance. Also inform them of the consequences if they allow your company’s reputation to descend to the level of your less-than-capable competitors. Not only will your staff work harder to provide good performances, they will take pride in working for an organization that has a distinguished reputation.

Your company work environment also determines the amount of pride your staff will take in representing your company. Strive to be a good, fair leader, and set positive examples for your staff. Enthusiasm for your job is contagious: if you are positive and enthusiastic with your staff, they are likely to carry that attitude to the job site.

It is important that your staff and customers alike perceive your company as a professional business, not a hobby. Your staff will appreciate it if you are well-organized: a comprehensive training program, reliable equipment and a well organized music library are just a few things that reflect efficiency. When you provide your staff with all of the tools necessary to do the job correctly, you’re creating a work environment that is user-friendly, and, ultimately, it gives employees fewer reasons to leave.

The key is finding positive and creative ways to motivate your staff. After all, your long-earned reputation is only as good as the current staff that presents every job. Reputations, as we all know, can be tarnished rather quickly. And the first step to such a blemish will be your complacency.

Mobile Beat Staff Writer (371 Posts)

This is the general editors account for Mobile Beat Magazine and Website. Who reads Mobile Beat online and in print and attends Mobile Beat events? DJs, VJs and KJs to start with, especially those who own and operate mobile entertainment services. They provide music, video, lighting and a myriad other entertainment choices for corporate events, wedding receptions, dances and innumerable other gatherings.

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