The big debate

Taking the motivation path

How can businesses find ways to motivate their diverse workforces without having significant impact on the bottom line? Over to our panel of industry experts…


Adrian Duncan, P&MM Motivation
“There are a number of factors to consider when thinking about motivation programmes – the objectives of the organisation, who your audience is, what roles they perform, where they are based, what their educational status is, how far the organisation wants to engage its people and so on. These factors define the type of programme that needs to be implemented.

“However, managers can also play a pivotal role in individual motivation. They need to understand the nuances of their team members – some people thrive on recognition, some want to be ‘the best of the best’, others want a learning experience or more responsibility. We can help them tap into this and give them the tools to get the best from their teams.”

Kuljit Kaur, The Voucher Shop
“Motivation schemes are effective when the process of earning the reward and the reward itself align with the employee’s lifestyle. So, for some this may mean appealing to the employee’s need or desire to please their family by giving them chance to earn a reward that the family can enjoy, while for others it might be an individual reward such as a piece of jewellery. Managers must keep this in mind when seeking the best ways to raise motivation levels. Those who design schemes tend to look at the profile of a workforce and, to a greater or lesser extent, tailor the reward to the individual or to the common denominator of staff tastes. But if this approach is applied often, schemes can become repetitive and less effective.

“For this reason, vouchers and gift cards continue to be a popular and effective way to reward employees. The recipient can choose what to spend the voucher on and they are motivated as they work towards something they really want, rather than a reward that is chosen for them. For the employer, vouchers and gift cards are a cost-effective reward option, which gives them the chance to promptly and publicly recognise an employee for what they have accomplished.”

Joanne Taylor, Asda Business Solutions
“One of the biggest areas that many employers are looking at now is flexible benefits packages. There is a great variety of retailers and services to choose from, so it can be a very attractive offering for the company and the employees.

“I think businesses that introduce this sort of package demonstrate that they’re trying to help employees make their money go a bit further. Employees might be feeling a bit low because they aren’t seeing many financial rewards at the moment, but knowing they have access to this kind of benefit means they can make savings on clothes, groceries, restaurants etc.

“Employers aren’t tending to give product-based rewards as much as they used to, as people would rather have currency in the form of a gift card or voucher. However, to be truly motivational, employers thinking of introducing these benefits should canvass employee opinion and, once implemented, follow up at regular intervals to find out whether staff like it.”

Dan Howson, Sevens7
“Before setting up Sevens7, myself and the two other directors were all growing tired of how our former employers tried to incentivise their teams. Some told employees that the live event industry is a ‘sexy’ one, so they should be grateful they were working in it. Others ran after-work clubs, which were a ruse to keep people at work for longer. They tried to make us think that there was nowhere better to be.

“We did not want to run our business like that and realised very quickly that it doesn’t have to be a 24/7 job. Yes, we do late nights occasionally but not all the time and we understand that people have lives away from work, because we do too.

“I don’t think there’s a better motivator than giving people ownership and responsibility. Stepladder is a training, development and employment programme that sits within Sevens7. Participants spend a year running their own projects and producing events, while working with the production team and on projects within Sevens 7’s portfolio. Stepladder gives them the chance to learn the processes behind live events production while having experienced people there to help and support them throughout.”

Alex Speed, Love2reward
“We work with a financial organisation who wanted to introduce an alternative for paying their employees overtime through payroll. It wanted to introduce something more tangible than a small financial addition to pay packets, so it launched the new scheme internally with a Love2choose card. Each employee received a card at launch and receive regular monthly uploads on to their card for overtime.

“The organisation wanted to do something different, as there is such a wide spectrum of hourly rates across its business. It is also planning to pay out for attending training courses that run outside of company hours. This is to encourage staff to volunteer to come in for additional out-of-hours training, which had been a problem with poor turnouts. These tangible rewards are really helping to motivate staff and are a benefit to the business as service levels will be increased through the training.”

John Dove, House of Fraser
“Agencies running flexible benefits are doing well because the current climate suits their offerings and employers are looking for ways to give value to staff without hitting their bottom lines.

“House of Fraser gift cards are successful in areas such like long-service awards. As a premium brand, our gift cards tend to be redeemed against treats and luxuries, rather than being subsumed into everyday spends, which lends a certain quality factor to our offering. Therefore, companies wishing to reward their staff perceive there to be a lot of value in our proposition.

“In addition, I always think that training and investment in people goes a long way to motivate them, especially if you show people that there is the opportunity for mobility in the workplace if they are good at what they do. The temptation is to axe training because it’s a cost, but I would say that the businesses that will win through will be the ones who are serious about motivating and investing in their people.”

Mark Carman, Edenred
“On the whole, people go to work to do a good job. But they don’t want employers to just assume that they will go the extra mile all the time. Others who don’t go the extra mile at all need to understand why they are not being chosen for rewards.

“If employees have authority and are trusted to do their jobs well, that goes a long way towards motivation. A high level of trust leads to a high level of engagement. The main conduit for motivation is managers.

“I’m an advocate of two-way communication – managers should have an open-door policy and they need to listen to their teams. They also need to have a consistent approach – they can’t be stingy with one person and generous to another. Look at John Lewis, which has partners rather than employees. It’s no wonder it does well because there’s a bottom-up approach to communication and everyone shares in its successes.”

Lee Cannon, Fairsharemusic
“For me, recruitment is at the heart of motivation. The music industry is filled with people who are passionate about what they do, but it takes time to understand the job, listen to music, get out to gigs etc. So we develop through internships. Mine showed me that I had an opportunity to work in an exciting environment and learn something I was passionate about.

“We recruit the right people in the first place and, in the longer term, we have processes in place where we can talk to employees to find out how they want to progress. Every week we sit down together and talk about things in the context of the business and we have one-to-one reviews.

“Employees are motivated if they feel their contribution is valid. Due to the size of the business, we don’t have a hierarchy as such. However, it’s so important to lead by example and to allow junior people to learn from experienced colleagues. They do not learn by being micro-managed, though. So allow them to make mistakes, guide them and they will learn from it.”

Helmut Rasch, MaxChoice
“For the last 10 years, we have been helping clients set up motivation schemes. To ensure that the scheme is effective and sustainable, we always suggest that they think about setting goals that are achievable. Communication and marketing of a motivation programme is also key and making awards frequent, simple and flexible brings success.

“If an individual gift seems like the perfect solution, then think about the administrative nightmare of choosing a specific gift for each employee and the high chance of getting it wrong! Gift vouchers provide the perfect solution, because they allow the employee to choose something that they can hold onto, be it a piece of jewellery, something for the home, the latest electrical item or even a weekend away.”

Gemma Barlow, Cottrills
“An ongoing points-based incentive scheme that allows participants to accrue points over time to redeem against aspirational merchandise and experiences is an effective form of motivation and is popular with our clients. It allows the company to award in smaller denominations (much easier to swallow than large cash sums) without detracting from the motivational effect.

“Low-value, transient tokens that have an explicit cash value have little motivational effect as the amount can be perceived as small and insignificant and is forgotten once it has been absorbed into everyday living expenses. But award with points that can be ‘banked’ and the token has a much more positive effect, as the individual can watch their points grow, to be later redeemed against branded items or experiences.

“Employees may baulk at buying a high-quality branded item from their own pocket but they do appreciate a treat provided by their employer. Once the Pandora bracelet, Radley handbag, Tag Heuer watch, or latest technology item has been won, it will be quickly advertised to all staff thereby re-enforcing and stimulating activities beneficial to the company’s bottom line.

Motivation facts

  • Highly engaged employees have on average a 50% higher rate of productivity*
  • Engaged employees also take an average of 2.69 sick days per year**
  • Disengaged employees take 6.19 days**
  • 87% of engaged employees are less likely to resign from a business*** 
  • 21% of employers place achieving a good work/life balance as a top priority for 2012†

**Engaging For Success Govt Report
***Corporate Leadership Council
† Group Risk Development

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