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Natwest Content Live

Every business needs keen, incentivised staff. Leading motivational gurus reveal some inexpensive and easy ways to engage and inspire your employees.

There are three obvious benefits a business gets from motivated staff, according to mentoring guru James Sale. “It’s the three Ps: performance, productivity and profitability,” he says. “If you perform at a high level, you become more productive. And if you become more productive, you become more profitable.”

The problem is, some CEOs are under the impression that there’s a ‘one size fits all’ approach to motivating their teams. But there isn’t.

“They might say ‘Right, we need to perk everyone up, so we’ll build a gym in the basement’,” says Sale. “What that fails to recognise is that people are different. Using a gym at lunchtime may appeal to a 25-year-old; but it might not appeal to a 55-year-old.”

Nine workplace motivators 

People are motivated by nine things in the workplace, says Carole Gaskell, founder and CEO of Full Potential Group, which inspires ambitious organisations, individuals and teams to realise their full potential. These are: security, belonging, recognition, control, money, expertise, innovation, freedom and meaning/making a difference. Each person has a different blend of these motivators; the trick is to find out which ones rank at the top of their list. “Don’t assume that your team will be driven by money just because you are,” says Gaskell.

Instead, take the time to understand the inner drivers of each individual – she suggests simply asking them.

For example, Full Potential Group profiles its staff to uncover their main motivators, and then monitors them every six months to see if these have changed. “A number of people in our business have a high ‘spirit’ motivator, which means they want more freedom,” says Gaskell. “So we give them flexibility with their hours and opportunities to work from home. As a result, their motivation has increased because they have a greater sense of ownership over what they do.”

Similarly, a number of Gaskell’s staff cite ‘belonging’ as a big motivator. “These are sociable people,” says Gaskell. “So we’ve increased the sociable things we do as a group outside of work on a regular basis.” Importantly, people who aren’t driven by social connection are not forced to join in with the activities.

Motivation costs nothing 

Barbara Glanz works with organisations that want to improve morale, retention and service; she’s also a bestselling author, whose books include 180 Ways to Spread Contagious Enthusiasm. She says that motivating people doesn’t have to be expensive or time-consuming. “You could have a golf-putting competition in the hallway, or get everyone to bring in a baby picture with no name on it, and have people guess which staff member it is,” she says. “Little, fun things that get people talking and laughing cost nothing.”

Michael Caulfield, director and performance psychologist at Sporting Edge, a company that works with elite sportspeople and businesses to tackle their performance challenges, says his top tip to motivate staff is to ask them these three questions: “What do you do?”, “What could you do?” and “What stops you from doing it?”. “The answers you’ll get back are fascinating,” he says. “Usually, management stops them from doing what they could do – or the individual has a fear of getting it wrong or being laughed at. So they stop being creative and only do what they’re meant to do.”

When staff tell you what they could do, they have to be motivated to put their ideas into action. For example, Caulfield mentions a company that, on the last Friday of every month, gives its staff just one instruction, “Do what you like”. “That means teams can have formal meetings or informal ones,” he says. “They could go off for a walk, hire a bike or go to the pub. But when they come in on Monday, they have to reveal what they’ve come up with. And, because of that Friday, the company experiences growth.”

Five steps to motivating your teams 

  1. Keep it simple

“Motivating people should be simple but humans like to overcomplicate things,” says Gaskell. “But if we ask our staff the right questions and keep things straightforward, the energy will flow a lot more easily.” That’s what motivation is, she points out: energy.

  1. Be prepared to listen

“You know what it’s like with kids,” says Sale. “If you keep telling them what to do, they don’t like it very much and will try to find ways around it. But if you listen and try to understand what they really want, they start giving you a lot back in terms of energy, excitement and love.” It’s the same with grown-ups, he says.

  1. Relinquish control

This may be hard for many in management roles, but motivation is a ‘bottom up’, rather than ‘top down’ process. That means bosses have to be prepared to hand control to their staff. Gaskell says: “What you can’t tell them is: ‘We’re going to motivate you — and here’s how we’re going to do it.’”

“Get employees involved,” says Glanz. “Their task could be to come up with ideas that are team-building or fun, at least every couple of weeks, to create an atmosphere that helps people say ‘I want to come to work today’.”

  1. Stay human

“We live in such a mechanical, fast-moving world that we have lost the human touch,” says Caulfield. “Yet at management level especially, people are craving recognition and appreciation more than ever.” All it takes is a small gesture to show you respect them for the job they do. A simple thank you works wonders. 

  1. Spread some joy

Most workplace meetings focus on what’s going wrong in a company. So a simple idea, says Glanz, is to start each meeting with three minutes of good news, which makes staff more positive and productive. “We need more joy in our workplaces,” she says.

Read the article on the Natwest Business Hub.