Staff Motivation

A guide by citrusHR Consulting

Only a third of employees in the UK say they’re actively engaged at work. So it would seem that ensuring your employees not only work well for you, but also have a great time doing so, is a tricky balance to strike.

We’ve written previously about Blue Monday – the most depressing work day of the year, not the 80s pop song – but what can you do to ensure that employees are motivated to do their best for your business all year round?


The first rule of staff motivation

Firstly, you need to realise one thing; money isn’t the answer.

Lots of employers fall into the trap of thinking “I pay my staff a lot, surely that’s enough?”. Well, research has proven that this isn’t always the case. Staff are rarely motivated by money..

This isn’t to say that you shouldn’t give a financial incentive – it just pays to motivate them in more creative ways. You may not have heard of Herzberg’s Hygiene Factors, but you’ll certainly understand them when you hear it; tackling the stuff which dissatisfies – such as a poor salary – will not create satisfaction, as job satisfaction and dissatisfaction are totally separate factors.

“money isn’t the answer”


Job satisfaction

Once you’ve understood that money isn’t always a deal-breaker, you’ll want to start thinking about job satisfaction; the crux of any great role. If you get this right, you can really motivate your staff to bring their A-game into the workplace.

Finding out during the course of the interview or induction phase what gets your new starter going is a great way to understand how to deliver real job satisfaction.

Do they like having more responsibility? Does working with people face-to-face make them happy? Whatever engages them, if the role can work around it, add more of that kind of activity during the course of their employment and you’ll be on your way to a happier employee!

This might include anything from giving them a more varied role; giving them real opportunities for development, or even helping them to understand how their work impacts on your company’s success. Regular appraisals allow you to pass this information on effectively, and also understand how you can tweak the role further as they become a more long-term member of the team.

“Whatever engages them, if the role can work around it, add more of that kind of activity”


Make staff feel they belong

To ensure that they stay to become a long-term member of the team, you’ll want to foster a sense of ‘belonging’ in the company. It might sound a bit airy-fairy, but it’s a proven method of staff motivation.

Just like with job satisfaction, you’ll want to involve them in the business. Take the time to explain to them what the business objectives are, and this will feed into how you inform them of their contributions to the company. It can be quite demoralising for someone to blindly do their job without any idea of how it impacts on the business as a whole.

If you can, try to update the team on how the company is performing, along with any other relevant news. For example, you might want to have short team meetings about promotions and good performance.

Another suggested way to improve staff cohesion is to make them feel more like a team through uniforms, which could include their name or department. This depends entirely on the business you’re in, and could equally be de-motivating in some environments. Alternatives could be a monthly bake off, or a cocktail hour; anything that brings the team together once in a while that isn’t solely about work.

Birthdays are a great time for the team to get together too. Ensuring that they are celebrated not only makes that staff member feel appreciated, but also has the team working together to work out just what Geoff in accounting would want for his special day.

‘Perks’ are of course an added benefit to working anywhere. This may be anything from the odd round of cakes or doughnuts to say thanks, or a few drinks down the pub on a Friday; whatever you think is best. Just make sure you don’t repeat yourself too often, as the team will soon think that the perk is just ‘par for the course’ – reducing its impact.

Finally, as part of creating a sense of belonging, you may even want to give your staff a chance to invest in the company and buy some shares or engage in a profit/performance related bonus scheme. This financial engagement ties them directly to the success of the business, and can make them feel a real part of its success. These financial incentive approaches to need to be well thought out, and carefully documented to protect the company in the event of any dispute that could arise if the employment relationship turns sour further down the line.


Make staff feel valued

You can’t do all of the above every day however. So it’s worth taking the time to get into a few good habits to ensure that your employees feel valued throughout their employment with you.

One great way to do this is to ask for their input on tough business decisions. Listening to their ideas, and making them feel their thoughts and ideas have real value, can really help to make them feel more involved in the business every day. It’s not just you that has great ideas, after all.

Everyday things like taking the time to say thanks, give feedback, or even just saying hello are all things that cumulatively build a sense of appreciation. And don’t just do it when things are going well, the people you want will work just as hard (or harder) when the going gets tough, so that’s when you’ll need to make them feel more valued than ever.


Some final notes

We hope that this helps you to understand the complexities of employee motivation – and some simple ways to approach it too!

To sum up:

  • Don’t just fall back on financial incentives – money rarely motivates on its own
  • Help staff to understand their place in the business, and how they impact on its success
  • Make them feel valued every day, not just when things are going well
  • Be creative – treat them now and again, but don’t let these activities become staid