Every manager craves a team who goes above and beyond in their role, day after day. And once we’re surrounded by this sort of top talent, we want to keep it.

This attraction and retention rests on what we’re doing to motivate our employees. Those who are motivated are energised. Supercharged. Rocket-fuelled. They move quickly to get things done and look forward to the next challenge with anticipation and hunger.

According to Gallup’s research across 142 countries, only 13% of employees are engaged in their jobs. 63% aren’t engaged. And 24% of all employees are actively disengaged. Clearly, we need to get a better idea of what motivates people.

So, without further ado, let’s lift the curtain on what really motivates your employees.

What motivates people to work?

Peer motivation, camaraderie and R.E.S.P.E.C.T.

The number one thing that motivates your employees is peer motivation. What’s that? A desire to help their colleagues and their team on the path to success. A feeling of camaraderie.

Dr. Paul Marciano, author of “Carrots and Sticks Don’t Work: Build a Culture of Employee Engagement with the Principles of Respect”, travels the world sharing his knowledge on the topic. He highlights the failures of the traditional, predominantly money-fuelled ‘carrot and stick’ approach to employee motivation – instead encouraging us to create an environment of R.E.S.P.E.C.T. And not just a little bit.

R is for “Recognition”

As you finish an amazing piece of work, and the accomplishment rushes through your veins, it feels pretty damn good, right?

Then, when the quality of that work is recognised and praised by your manager, supervisor or peers; the taste of success fills you with vitality. And the motivation to work harder to reproduce that feeling is born.

Who knows best when a job is being done well? The exact same people that are doing it. 44% of employees give peer-to-peer recognition when they have an easy method of delivering it. So, let’s make sure that’s the case.

In some environments, a face-to-face chat and a simple “thank you” work perfectly. In teams that are located more remotely, a touch more creativity is required. Chris Hill, CEO of The New World Trading Company, spoke at our Culture Carnival about their “Message in a Bottle” scheme. In keeping with New World’s brand of adventure and exploration, peer-to-peer recognition messages are delivered to recipients in tiny glass bottles.

“Last year we sent about 9,500 of these messages,” Chris added, “they take recognition and communication to the next level – it’s about the feeling”. The feeling that your amazing work has been acknowledged. And the feeling that motivates and spurs you on to do more.

E is for “Empowering Employees”

Employee engagement is the root of all success in business. And for our people to feel engaged, empowered and energised, we’ll need to let them know that they’re our number one priority.

That starts with the basics: equipping them correctly for the job at hand and treating them fairly and consistently every day. But did you know a lack of development opportunities is the number one reason people up sticks and look for a new role?

Opportunities to learn, grow and advance motivate people and reduce employee turnover. And no, growth doesn’t equate to a new job title or a pay rise. Growth is learning new skills, taking on more responsibility and becoming a better version of yourself.

So, we need to create Learning and Development programmes that are wide-reaching; appealing to all learning styles and accessible to everyone. We need to share knowledge and present learning opportunities through different mediums; including workshops, courses, podcasts and articles. And we need to understand our people’s strengths and make sure they’re using them and building on them day in, day out.

But, more than anything, we need to listen to our people. We need to gather their suggestions and feedback regularly – not just once or twice a year – and then act on them. Here at Cooper Parry, we send out our weekly “How’s It Going?” happiness survey, asking our people to rate their week from 1-10 and provide comments where they see fit. It’s great for shouting about successes and ironing out any issues as soon as they arise. And we’ve watched the average score increase week by week, month by month, year by year – simply by maintaining a consistent, regular feedback loop. Speaking of feedback…

S is for “Supportive Feedback”

Feedback is the breakfast of champions, as the saying goes, and regular, honest feedback underpins our people’s motivation to progress, improve and keep moving their career forwards.

Only the coldest, iciest of hearts get a kick out of giving a team member negative feedback. But sometimes, it’s needed to keep your team on the right track. The key lies in the positioning of said feedback. Make sure it’s always supportive; delivered with both the recipient and the team’s best interests, progression and success in mind.

When we show our people that we’re invested in their careers and we’re here to help wherever we can, they’ll respond with positivity and a determination to keep learning and bettering themselves – which of course lays the foundations for huge benefits to our quality of work and client experience.

P is for “Partnering”

Partnering is about breaking down any form of hierarchy in your business; knocking down those hideous wooden doors hiding your senior figures, and pulling out all the stops to help horizontal relationships flourish.

Fostering this feeling of connection and camaraderie unites people in their pursuit for shared goals. When you feel like you depend on others, and they depend on you to reach these targets, teamwork and all-important peer motivation sprout into life.

Once that peer motivation is in place, we can build on it; deepening our people’s relationships and friendships through team-based, fun activities that are detached from work. Gallup’s Q12 Employee Engagement survey asks respondees if they have a best friend at work. It’s a question that strikes some people as odd. But when you think about the strength of the interpersonal relationships your people are sharing, they’re a huge factor in creating an engaging, motivating environment that they can’t wait to step into.

E is for “setting clear Expectations”

We all want to be successful at work. But that can only happen when we have a clear, specific understanding of what constitutes success in our business, our team and our own development.

Communicating targets and performance expectations (both verbally and in writing) at every level of the business is one of the best ways to let our people know they’re on the right track; without any pesky micromanaging. It’s about defining the end goal, and giving them the autonomy to choose how they get there.

That means firm-wide goals. Team goals. Personal goals. And these targets shouldn’t be drawn up once a year and forgotten about, they need to be refreshed and measured against regularly so they can evolve and adapt to changes in both the business and our people’s needs.

C, in Paul’s words, is for “Consideration”

Being considerate is all about showing empathy. Of course, that’s hugely important. But we think there’s an even bigger ‘C’ when it comes to motivating our people. And that’s culture. (You didn’t seriously think we’d pass up an opportunity to shout about culture, did you?)

A culture that prioritises wellbeing. A culture that champions development. A culture that’s always listening to and acting on the feelings of those people who are a part of it. A culture that cares.

Let’s make our wellbeing efforts holistic. Let’s help our people with work-life balance, physical, mental and financial wellbeing. Let’s train our people so they’re confident enough to leave. But treat them so well that they don’t want to.

In many ways, culture encapsulates every other letter in this acronym. It’s the one thing that makes a business unique. It’s character. It’s personality. And when you create a culture that people not only thrive in, but enjoy being a part of, their motivation to succeed and stay with you will go through the roof.

T is for “Trust”

Trust is an integral part of any relationship; professional, personal or otherwise. If you feel like you’re constantly under the microscope and scrutinised over your ability to do your job, you don’t feel trusted. Any respect you had for your boss or your team feels unrequited. And your motivation and enthusiasm are crushed.

Trust is closely linked to empowering employees and fostering the camaraderie we’ve spoke so much about. Trust is holding people accountable for their performance, while giving them the freedom to deliver on their commitment however suits them best.

One of the key ways of doing that is offering flexible working; freeing people from the constraints of rigid working hours, patterns or locations. LinkedIn’s 2019 Global Talent Trends Report found a 78% spike in job posts boasting flexible working over the last two years on the site. What was once a perk, has now become an expectation.

One of the rarer examples of displaying trust in your people comes in the form of open, or unlimited, holiday. There’s no limit on the number of days people can take off. And no hidden tracker. Just the trust that they’ll produce incredible work, without taking the proverbial.

It’s a policy we’ve had great success with at Cooper Parry, and it forms a big part of our attraction, our culture and the engagement we’ve built.

Reiterate your respect every day

When we’re ticking all the boxes and creating a culture of R.E.S.P.E.C.T, that’s when we’ll supercharge our employees; motivating them, engaging them and reaping the rewards of their efforts to not only reach collective goals, but become better versions of themselves, too.

Nothing boosts loyalty and drive like pride. Pride in the vision you’re a part of. And a feeling that says, “You know what, this team really cares about me”.

If we’ve struck a culture chord and you’d like to swap some ideas – or find out how our electrifying people can slicken and sure-fire your success – get in touch with Ben Eason, our Head of Business Relationships, at bene@cooperparry.com


Ben Eason, Partner and Head of New Business Relationships


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