Let’s Talk: How can you drive motivation and teamwork among staff?

Image credit: Clayton Cardinalli

With hybrid workplaces increasingly commonplace, business leaders are having to rejig their approach with staff, particularly when it comes to promoting motivation and teamwork.

What drives employees? How can business leaders keep a happy and thriving workplace? How important are recognition, opportunities for career advancement, and workplace culture?

Let’s talk

Jason Toshack, General Manager ANZ, Oracle NetSuite

Over the last year, most people have had to deal with complete shifts from their normal routines and the traditional workday. Most business leaders are optimistic about the future. So, to keep employees motivated and spirits high, they should project a ‘glass half-full’ disposition.

One thing I’ve found helpful is to share inspirational stories of others that have overcome huge personal challenges in life and how they have gone about it. This puts in perspective that others have been in worse situations and pulled through, which can boost morale and give teams confidence that there is a light at the end of the tunnel.

It’s also important to make sure your staff feel supported. Ensuring they avoid burnout is crucial, so encourage people to take time to recharge the batteries, even if it’s just to step away for a coffee or to find time during the day for some exercise.

Vicky Skipp, Head of Asia Pacific and Japan, Workplace by Facebook

Employee engagement is no longer a ‘nice to have’ for organisations – it’s a business differentiator. It is part and parcel of keeping staff motivated.

True staff engagement and motivation means employees having a real connection with the organisation they work for, a genuine understanding of what they need to do, and a desire to do it.

As managers it is imperative that we are giving employees the right tools they need to get their work done to suit their job role. Employee engagement in current-world circumstances means employees have a mix of sync and async tools, access to on-demand videos and work/life balance tools like ‘do not disturb’. Our use of technology should be an additive to our daily lives, which builds a strong trust based culture and aids productivity and communication. It shouldn’t be a hindrance that blurs the lines between work and life or, worse, ‘checks on’ staff.

Motivating employees isn’t necessarily about people putting in more hours of work, but rather about working in a more impactful may, ensuring they feel valued and receive regular, up-to-date company-wide information.

Jay Munro, Head of Career Insights, Indeed

Creating a positive workplace culture is one of the biggest contributors to employee motivation. Employees who know their purpose, feel included and safe, and those who are regularly recognised for their contributions are more likely to take pride in their work and be productive.

Motivated employees are clear about their individual, team and organisational goals. They are clear on areas of responsibility and have an understanding of how each person contributes to the wider objective. This creates a positive work environment that can stimulate motivation.  

People who feel comfortable enough to be themselves and voice their opinions are more likely to feel there is an equal opportunity for advancing in the company. Organisations that create an environment where employees feel safe, included and trusted, will see a boost in collaboration, experience improved productivity and increased motivation. 

Recognition is also fundamental to employee motivation. Research shows that people who are recognised for their accomplishments in their current role are less likely to start looking for a new job.  Celebrating the hard work of an employee can increase their motivation to perform well.

Mona Akiki, Chief People Officer, Perkbox

In my experience, many of us are already motivated intrinsically and naturally get satisfaction from doing a great job. There are, however, factors within our environment that either weaken or strengthen that behaviour. For example, an environment that harshly penalises failure will stiffen motivation as well as creativity. Individuals in those types of companies are not encouraged to try new things or to push boundaries. 

On the flip side, working for a supportive team and an organisation that recognises your efforts will encourage you to continuously produce good work. This is why recognition is such an important motivator not only for individuals who achieve successful results, but also for those that take calculated risks and behave in ways that are aligned to a company’s culture.

Judith Beck, Diversity Champion and Recruitment Specialist, Author of No Sex at Work

After interviewing thousands of candidates over 25 years, one thing stood out as the number one reason why people would stay or go from an organisation – it was the relationship they had with their boss. Employees were motivated if the boss was passionate about the company and could inspire them to believe in the business as much as they did.

They were also motivated by managers who delivered what they promised and who had clear communication skills so everyone understood what their goals were.

In addition, understanding what their career path looked like and how to get there. Being in a role where they were also challenged by their boss and given support to improve their skill level was also a motivator. Money as a motivator would not last long if these other motivators were not in place. People did not leave for money unless they were substantially underpaid.

Leon Adato, Head Geek, SolarWinds

It’s an inescapable reality for most people that a large portion of their waking life is spent at work. It’s an equally inescapable reality that employee churn is the single biggest drain on a business in terms of cost and productivity.

As a manager, ensuring employees are “happy” at work is both good moral values and good business. First of all, a manager has to recognise what their job is about.

In my opinion, a manager needs to:

  1. surround themselves with good people
  2. tell them what the company’s goals are
  3. ask them how to achieve those goals
  4. believe them when they offer solutions
  5. clear the way for those solutions to be implemented

The other important thing as a manager is to use the privilege of the job to open doors for staff, then get out of the way. Create open spaces that are safe and available for staff to speak their mind. Support their messages.

Finally, help staff grow in their career by making sure they’re aware of new opportunities that fit their goals.

Campbell Macpherson, International Business Adviser & Change Expert, Author of The Power to Change

Motivating employees has nothing to do with money. It is about making every one of your people feel like a VIP:

Valued. When people feel valued, they go the extra mile – with passion and commitment. When it comes to employee commitment, emotion is four times more powerful than logic. Leaders must appeal to the emotions of their people.

Interconnected. We humans are social, tribal animals. We need to belong. We achieve so much more as part of an energised, focused team. And one of the most powerful forms of recognition is peer recognition.

Purpose. If your business has a compelling and clear answer for why it exists and who it exists to serve, your people will have the clarity and motivation they need to deliver for your customers. If it doesn’t, your people will simply be going through the motions – and the good ones will leave. So will your customers.

Matthew Lowe, Area Vice President, ANZ, Ivanti

The past year was particularly challenging in keeping teams motivated. Familiar processes and moments of connection when teams could get together were upended. As the Ivanti workforce shifted to remote working, we needed to ensure that we didn’t lose focus and momentum. By finding new ways to connect, collaborate and support each other, we have achieved some stellar results.

Open lines of communication have been crucial for ensuring that the team is supported, heard and valued. The 1on1s with my team were as crucial as ever, but regular ‘virtual coffee catch ups’ with the national team has forged stronger communication and personal relationships. When teams believe in what they are doing, the people they are working with, it creates a sense of unity resulting in an environment where motivation is naturally cultivated, rather than forced.

Balder Tol, Australian General Manager, WeWork

Motivations are personal and vary. Be it access to beautifully designed workspace, a supportive manager, flexible policies or free food – employees are giving more thought to how, where and when they want to work. With new trust between employers and employees, team members across all levels of an organisation thrive when communication and transparency is fostered.

For me, employee motivation starts with having ambitious yet achievable goals clearly linked to company objectives. Here at WeWork, we’re finding organisations are putting more of a focus on providing a place for their people to meaningfully connect – a place where they don’t have to be, but want to be.

As human beings, employees are naturally driven by softer intangibles too, such as learning through mentorship and coaching as well as recognition to celebrate success. A sense of togetherness is cultivated through moments that encourage people to interact, feel listened to and ultimately supported.

Julia Poloai, Head of Culture and Talent, Clipchamp

Drivers of motivation are unique to each individual but the common, underlying threads are a sense of purpose, contribution, and feeling that success in the work they do and resulting outcomes are achievable. These are key to encouraging engagement and uplifting team members to do their absolute best at work. 

In order to foster a mutual sense of purpose, it’s important to establish a clear and strong vision that your employees are, not only familiar with, but completely integrated with. A concrete vision serves to unify employees. And when employees are provided with visible opportunities to contribute and critique that vision, morale can be strengthened across teams – regardless of departmental silos.

Additionally, employees want to feel trusted, respected, and assured their work and their selves are valued. Particularly in this new era of remote and hybrid work, a lot of teams are experiencing increased levels of stress and a lot of business leaders are responsible for piling on those added pressures in a time of ambiguity. Remembering that trust is a two-way street, and trusting and respecting employees and their autonomy, can empower individuals to remain confident in their abilities and, ultimately, inspire their own motivation to do great work.

Chad Hoy Poy, National Lending Manager, WLTH

Keeping employees motivated and engaged is pivotal in having a successful business. Finding the right people for a business can be difficult, so once you have found the right fit for your culture, it’s important to keep them engaged and enjoying their work environment.

At WLTH, we are driving internal collaboration and encouraging open communication lines throughout the business, which we believe allows us to work more effectively and have greater outcomes. To help create a great culture, we ensure each team member has the opportunity to take ownership of their roles, are empowered to create change, improve processes and suggest better ways of doing things. This not only helps us to quickly improve our internal processes, it also creates better engagement from the team and leads to a better client experience.

Making sure we have fun outside the office and build better relationships is fundamental, as we grow our teams, we aim to maintain external team events that create greater personal connections and foster better working relationships.

As a high-growth business, maintaining a positive work environment is key in everything we are looking to achieve as we build out our offering and shake up the lending and payments industry in Australia.

Laura Bradley, Head of Business Development, Gallagher Bassett

From my experience in managerial roles in both the hospitality and financial services industries, people value a workplace that acknowledges and rewards success, provides flexibility and genuinely values and listens to their people.

The past 12 months have really cemented for employers and workplaces the importance of a motivated and engaged team. Companies need to look to cultivate an employee experience that gets the best out of their staff. Whether it’s flexible working arrangements, virtual gyms or mentoring, unique and engaging cultural initiatives have gained speed at a phenomenal rate. 

As a third-party administrator, finding top-quality talent who provide empathetic and high-quality claims service is a key priority for us too. At Gallagher Bassett, we offer multiple people and culture initiatives tailored to our employee’s values and interests to continue to motivate them to thrive in their role. We know our people can’t give their best if we don’t give them the best we can offer. From a “Dress For Your Day” policy to give people the chance to signal their career goals, to the opportunity to travel and connect with our overseas branches (in a pre-COVID world!) and CSR activities to provide purpose – the opportunities for employers to attract and retain the best talent are endless.

Nick Sheehan, CEO, EFEX

When it comes to motivating employees, there is no one-size-fits-all. Here are some tips and a few ‘quick wins’ that I’ve learned about the topic, which could help maintain interest and drive in the workplace:

  1. Ensure everyone knows their role and what it means to be successful in it
  2. Encourage everyone to buy into the vision of the business 
  3. Encourage communication, ownership, resilience and effort in front of every action
  4. Create an environment whereby honest and genuine feedback is met with a focus on continuous improvement
  5. Lead people, rather than facilitating behaviours or actions
  6. Educate employees on ‘why’ the business exists
  7. Remove corporate jargon and politics 
  8. Encourage solutions rather than problems

Rolf Howard, Managing Partner, Owen Hodge Lawyers

One important element that can get lost in discussions about how to motivate employees is purpose.

If we expect employees to be motivated to perform day after day, they need to feel inspired by the organisation’s purpose and engaged in helping achieve it.

A business owner or leader who says with their actions or words, “I’m just here for the money,” sets him or herself up against the interests of employees, customers and possibly society. This is not to say it’s not appropriate for business owners to pursue profit; it’s just that that discussion needs to be kept private.

But a business owner or leader who expresses, “I am here for a higher purpose,” invites employees, customers and society to buy into and align with that higher purpose. This is particularly true for employees, who won’t necessarily be motivated by the pursuit of a business’s overall profit.

Rebecca Houghton, BoldHR founder, author of IMPACT

Your role, as a leader, is to provide an environment that enables motivation – but your job is not to instill motivation. 

Here are the top 6 things you can do to create an environment where motivation thrives: 

  1. Security is table stakes. If jobs or wellbeing are at risk, no-one behaves normally
  2. Minimise threats to their status – long and cascading restructures are a classic demotivator
  3. Minimise their sense of uncertainty – help them see the pathway through ambiguity so they remain on target
  4. Empower them to have a level of autonomy – it makes them feel more valuable and more powerful
  5. Let them nurture their relationships with others – isolation is not great for wellbeing as we now know
  6. Make sure that people are treated fairly and if there’s a perception they are not, deal with it quickly

If you manage threats to these 6 things, you’re on your way to creating an environment where motivation will thrive.

Ben Cohn, Managing Director and Co-Founder, TAXIBOX

When it comes to motivating employees, delegate responsibilities rather than activities.

Empowering employees to take ownership of a task, rather than telling them how to do it, provides an opportunity for staff to evolve and grow in their role. It creates a sense of confidence and helps shift their mindset to one that prioritises solutions over problems.

From the perspective of the business owner, the benefits of delegating (apart from the obvious in that it frees up time), is that it encourages people to challenge the status quo and do things differently. The impact of this at TAXIBOX is that it allows us to always think out-of-the-box (pun intended), and remain at the front of innovation in a generally not-so-creative industry.

Nick Bell, Digital Agency Owner, First Page Digital and Lisnic

When I launched my first business, I was an erratic manager that lacked structure and vision – two crucial ingredients required to build a high-performing culture.

Running a global agency network that employs over 1,000 people has forced me to get my sh#t together. Yes, you absolutely have to hire A-graders, but if the captain is a hot mess, the ship will sink. It’s cliché, but it’s on point. Surround yourself with people smarter than you. As the captain, it’s your role to ensure the A-graders work as a hungry, driven team, rather than individuals.

To motivate talent, we first need to understand their personalities and their skillsets. As the saying goes, aces in their places. People will always feel more motivated if they are performing well. In our recruitment process, candidates that move through to the second round of interviews are required to undertake DISC profiling. Yes, it’s not 100% accurate but it gives an indication of their role suitability.  

Communication is key. I’m very direct, but respectful. This ensures expectations and feedback are always clear. People also want to feel heard. If any of my team need to share concerns, I listen. Pull me aside and let’s talk.

Finally, have some fun. No one wants to work for someone they can’t have a laugh with.

Felicity Furey, Founder, The Professional Leaders Institute

What really motivates employees is having a clear vision that people can get on board with and they can see themselves in. The key is to have each person own the vision for themselves so they can lead themselves and others. How does the vision align to their personal goals and personal why? This kind of vision provides both freedom and options for how they achieve the vision, while setting boundaries for their work.

Leaders need to continuously repeat and communicate the vision to remind people where they are going, inspire the team and be their guide. In challenging times, this vision enables people to see the big picture rather than getting hung up on details and uncertainty.

James Bergl, Regional VP APAC, Datto

Given the realities of hybrid working today, it’s important to keep in mind the importance of good teamwork. There are many ways that teams can work effectively and stay motivated—regardless of location. Technology underpins all of this by making work easier and helping employees to collaborate. Messaging apps like Slack, for instance, are a great way to communicate small requests, while not overloading email channels. Project tracking platforms such as Wrike can be used to track team progress on projects and tasks to keep team members in sync.

But communication tools can easily become impediments rather than enablers if employees don’t manage their time appropriately. Establishing periods of uninterrupted work is crucial. Using the “Do Not Disturb” feature on messaging apps for example can help minimise notification overload. Most importantly, maintaining employee motivation requires taking a regular break. It’s easy to burnout when working from home, so it’s critical that employees are encouraged to prioritise work/life balance. 


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By Guillermo Troncoso

Guillermo is the Editor of Dynamic Business and Manager of film & television entertainment site ScreenRealm.com. Follow him on Twitter.