Tried and tested motivation techniques that work

Posted on August 18th, 2014
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Tried and tested motivation techniques that work

Recognition! We are so often focused on fixing the weaknesses in our businesses that we often forget to recognise our successes and the people who make them happen. This does not mean spending money, but it is about setting goals, working hard and then celebrating and rewarding success.

Dale Carnegie wrote a book, How To Win Friends and Influence People, that sold 15 million copies between 1936 and 2008. He said, “People work for money but go the extra mile for recognition, praise and rewards.” He was right.

One of my businesses had an outgoing telesales department as well as sales consultants on the road. The telesales staff would call clients on a twice-weekly basis for regular orders as well as cold-calling and following up on telephonic and quotes generated by the consultants.

Recognition as incentive

I had various incentive schemes in place on an individual level, as a team with “their” consultant as well as company targets. Sales initially increased and then plateaued.

We then implemented a recognition system for performance as well as a recognition system for “closing” new business (closing a sale by the customer accepting a quote that had been issued).

Performance recognition was for the best sales figures and consisted of a small ceremony and their name being placed on a board on the wall.

“Finding ways to engage with employees rather than pay them off will result in more loyal, harder working employees”

A ritual symbolised the new business recognition. Once a quotation was accepted and signed by the customer, the salesperson (telesales or external consultant) would go to an old-fashioned bell mounted in the showroom and be allowed to ring it as loudly as they wanted.

These small gestures increased the sales figures as much as the performance bonuses and were much cheaper.

An unintended consequence of this bell ringing was the sales volumes from the showroom increased. Customers felt the heightened energy of the staff and could see how successful and popular we were and this made closing the sale easier. It also motivated the administration and logistics staff as they felt the energy and knew that the company was successful and was bringing in new business.

Cash isn’t always king

So ‪when it comes to rewarding your employees, cash is king—but only for a few hours. Money is not a long-term motivation. Sure, employees love cash — who doesn’t? — but finding ways to engage with them rather than pay them off will result in more loyal, harder-working employees.‬‬‬

Here are some other ways to say, “I recognise you and appreciate all your hard work,” without destroying the budget.

  • A thank you note – Saying thanks for something specific may be the ultimate reward. If you do it selectively yet authentically, a thank you note may be kept at your employee’s desk for years.
  • Lunch party – Lunch with colleagues is fun, breaks up the routine and keeps employees in the office. It’s an all-around win for anyone who likes to eat.
  • Outing – Take your employees for a tour of one of your vendor’s or suppliers’ facilities. It’s a cool way to learn more about whom you work with and can be as fun as a school trip in your school days.
  • Letter from the Big Dog –  Create a formal letter recognising your employee’s achievement. Sign it and use the company’s stamp or seal to give the letter something extra. If you want to do it right, frame it too.
  • Standing ovation – Get all your employees together in the same room. Pack them in. Then invite in the employee you’re recognising and give him or her a standing ovation.

About the author: Stephen Read is the founder and CEO of FIELD an incubator programme working in rural and under-resourced areas including Katlehong, Vosloorus and Thokoza. Stephen is also a life-long entrepreneur and now a teacher.