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Let’s talk: Staff motivation – how to keep teams driven

Staff motivation can be tricky to master at the best of times. Throw a pandemic in to the mix, and it becomes extra hard to know the steps to take for keeping your teams driven and focussed on the business’s goals. 

Motivation is not black and white, and it is impossible to feel motivated at all times. However, what strategies exist out there that enable us to feel as motivated as we can, as often as we can? What are the facilitators of staff motivation?

Recognition, financial rewards, career progression, ethical outcomes and more – can all be good sources of motivation – but what works for some employees and teams may not work for others. The question as a leader is to find out what makes your teams ‘tick’ and use that to inspire them to achieve goals, always raising overall levels of staff motivation in order to better the business.

We find that it’s always best to ask the people who have been there, done that, in these situations, in order to really gain the best insight. To find out some of the most successful strategies for how to keep your teams driven and how to keep your staff motivated, we ask our team of experts and leaders across industries to share their advice and opinion.


Melissa Hyland, HR Manager, ipSCAPE

Melissa Hyland

Keeping your team motivated during this time is more important than ever before. With COVID-19 impacting everyone’s lives differently, we must remember to prioritise the wellbeing of our employees. At ipSCAPE, we have gotten creative with how we motivate our staff.

We use our product offering to do the following:

1. Inspire your team: With ipSCAPE ‘Notifications’, we send our team inspiring quotes for the day. You can also send personal messages and remind individuals of their goals for the day.

2. Add fun to the mix: Virtual games session keep things fun while working. Games that translate well through video conference tools such as Microsoft Teams include: Charades and Trivia.

3. Inject friendly competition: ipSCAPE reports and dashboards boost team morale by injecting friendly competition into work and hitting KPIs.

4. Stay Connected: As we get accustomed to remote working, we need to remember to stay connected. Microsoft Teams is used to host regular Team check-ins and Friday ‘Happy Hour’.

Ross Judd, CEO of Team Focus and author of Cultural Insanity

Motivation can either be intrinsic or extrinsic, meaning people can either have a deep personal motivation, or you can try to motivate through external things like salaries and rewards. You can build intrinsic motivation by discussing the organisation’s purpose. Help people align with WHY you exist and the contribution you are making in the world. When people align with purpose they will build a strong and compelling motivation for what they are doing. It’s a conversation people need. Deloitte’s 2019 “Global Human Capital Trends” report found that employees want a career, purpose, and meaning from their work. If you connect with people regularly and help them align with the company’s purpose you will build a strong, intrinsic motivation that will keep them driven and successful.

David Pich, CEO of the Institute of Managers & Leaders ANZ

David Pich

Keeping people motivated especially over this time of unprecedented change comes down to understanding and supporting their needs during a challenging period.

1. Set a clear strategy. Particularly in challenging times, people need a purpose beyond just working 9 to 5. Provide a strategy and vision that unites staff behind why an organisation exists, what its goals are and illustrates the journey of achieving them.

2. Break down goals. It’s natural for people to be overwhelmed during change and think, “just where do I start?” Help them break down large daunting projects into manageable tasks.

3. Open communication lines. With today’s technology, there’s no longer an excuse not to communicate, especially now when employees need support more than ever. During this period of working remotely, I’ve set-up a weekly virtual huddle to keep staff connected.

4. Encourage resilience plans. Resilience plans place you in the right mindset to cope with work and life. Right now, this is relevant to everyone. Invite staff to create personal plans to protect their wellbeing and motivation, at work and beyond.

Anthony Welsh, director of Popcar

The role your staff play within your organisation is imperative to its success. Motivated employees can lead to increased productivity and higher levels of output. That’s why having the ability to motivate your staff is integral, whether you are a SME or Fortune 500 company.

In my role I know that employee motivation is a collection of interactions had with their peers.

Personally, I find that when I have clear communication and value each individual’s contribution, it has a positive effect on my team’s satisfaction. I believe that as a leader within this business it is my responsibility as a center of influence, to know each of my employees personally and find ways in which I can add value to the as individuals and their work.

Together we strive to keep team morale and motivation up by having open lines of communication to brainstorm and collaborate on ideas and by celebrating every win, no matter the size.

Brett Kelly, CEO Kelly+Partners Chartered Accountants and author of Investment Wisdom

At Kelly+Partners we know that people are motivated most by a sense of progress. So in a crisis, in our view what is most important is that people know where they are at with their career and how that fits into the purpose and goals of our organisation. That ensures that we work together and realise both individual and organisational potential. The best way at this time to manage a team is to ensure constant communication that is rooted in ensuring that people know exactly what we’re trying to achieve together. We want our team to feel that, whatever the situation, progress is being made towards a compelling and better future. Each team leader should ensure they have a one-on-one catch up with their team members at least once per month and more often in a crisis.

Rohan Lock, Regional Director, APAC, dotdigital

The last month has been very challenging for all of us – we’ve all had to change the way we live, work, and socialise – and that hasn’t been easy. With a remote work environment, we are confined to our homes and the need for more structured work habits is greater now than ever before. 

At dotdigital, we have done a few things to continue business as usual. By keeping clear and open channels of communications between managers and their teams, through face-to-face video conferencing and formalised cross-team collaborative campaigns, we have ensured that employees are motivated and more connected than ever before. Where off the cuff “meetings at desks” are no longer an option, we encourage that all meetings are video conferences to ensure we keep the face to face interaction going. 

We’ve also organised twice daily, “watercooler” catch-up calls, where the only rule is not to discuss work! Other games such as Guess Who (baby photos/trivia about team members) and Video Dumb Charades, get each one of us to put our thinking caps on. Our Friday 4:00 pm beer o’clock is now virtual, thanks to 8×8, the fantastic videoconferencing technology that we use as a company.  

Angus Dorney, co-CEO of Kablamo

Angus Dorney

The Kablamo team has always been close knit. And now we are making sure there are lots of opportunities to check in: morning coffees, fortnightly Friday afternoon catchups to encourage banter and community, plus regular sessions to talk about any and all concerns with myself and my co-CEO. We keep teams driven by being as transparent as possible about the business – it is always hard to be motivated when you don’t what direction you are heading in, so clarity around the business goals helps drive the team forward.

We also use the tools available to us for fun as well as work. Groups, channels and chats in workflow apps are places to share who we are as well as what we do. The team has got to flourish as human beings. This was a core value before all this and we are doubling down on it now.

Liana Lorenzato, Marketing and CX Director, Modibodi

Our main objective while we’re in isolation is to make sure the team feels supported and does not feel overwhelmed by the current situation.

Every morning, teams have been having a virtual coffee before work officially begins, to catch up with each other as we would each day in the office. This is partly a work catch up, but also a chance for us to connect in a social sense and get ourselves pepped up for the day ahead. We also have catchups with team members throughout the day to discuss priorities and ensure each team members feel supported in their tasks. At 3pm every day, we encourage our team to reset for the afternoon by taking a break for a team stretching session!

We’ve also been continuing our tradition of Friday afternoon wines, to a sense of social interaction within the team (although this has been turning into a show-and-tell of everyone’s pets!)

Grant Emanuel, Marketing Director International, Chamberlain Group

Grant Emanuel

The most important element of our business continuity plan is staying connected with and supporting our team who are working from home, because it’s our people which gives us our competitive advantage.

To show our commitment to our people, and prove that our employees are our most important resource, we’ve made a pledge to the whole team worldwide that no matter what happens with impacts from COVID19 on our business performance, we will be continuing to pay all staff their full salary and not be making any staff changes for the next three months at a minimum. This will help take away any anxiety about jobs and give the team financial peace of mind during these difficult times so that they can focus on what they can control – which is to continue to deliver world leading solutions to our customers.

As with most companies we’re embracing virtual meetings but also recognise the social element of work too. Twice a week we hold team virtual coffee catch ups, not to discuss work, but to catch up about our iso-baking, family, pets, favourite TV shows (Tiger King is #1 in our team at the moment) and how we’re passing the time, just as you would when you’re at the office.

We encourage team members to take the time to give themselves ‘mind breaks’ throughout the day and to log off (and not back on) at the end of the day to help keep balance between work and home life. Our global team have also developed exercise programs such as yoga, stretching and strength exercises to help get the team moving.

Jaquie Scammell, Customer service specialist, author of Service Habits

Jaquie Scammell

Here is what I know; motivation is not permanent. Leaders have the task to not only stay motivated, focused and hopeful themselves but also to maintain that motivation for their teams.

Every day leaders need to practise the habit of motivation, treat each day as a reset, and be mindful that how they show up in front of their staff sets the tone for the day. A simple way of practising motivation is to look for good in staff behaviours. When leaders seek the opportunities to praise people who are role modelling the service behaviours expected, it not only raises the individual spirits, but it also raises the spirits of the team around them.

Sreelesh Pillai, General Manager of Freshworks Australia

Keeping teams driven in a time where we’re all apart is difficult, but not impossible. With a range of tools and tech available, there’s never been a better way to keep the communication channels open between staff.

Using digital channels can quickly get everyone on the same page, allowing the teams to focus and continue to be productive. Keeping staff informed about the larger strategy, particularly in a time with constant change, is key for maintaining morale, alignment and momentum.

Human connection is essential through all this. Conducting weekly team huddles, where everyone has a chance to see and talk to each other, is a great way to do this. Or try organising an online social event once a month, giving everyone a chance to regroup and bond.

Ultimately, it’s all about communication and connection. 

Dr Gero Decker, CEO and co-founder of business transformation solutions provider, Signavio

The current environment that has impacted us all has added various layers of complexity. However, we’re finding that teams are adapting to find their own special ways of collaborating with one another.

Communication and engagement can often be thrown around as buzzwords, but for us they are critical social and business drivers that help keep employees motivated wherever they are in the world. Applying them in practice has been as much a creative collective exercise for us as it has been a business objective.

We’ve seen virtual meetups using different tools, ensuring that from a business perspective we’re receiving a regular feedback loop. This way, all employees have their concerns heard, and team members understand the value they are continuing to bring to our organisation.

Carolyn Breeze, ANZ General Manager at recurring payments platform, GoCardless

Keeping your teams motivated while working from home is challenging, but when done right, can empower healthy routines and foster productivity. Part of the challenge is experimenting to find the best practices for your team, and the right infrastructure and technology to ensure clear, timely communications.

Tools like Slack and Zoom are great for connecting, but it’s how leaders use them that makes all the difference. To motivate your team, communicate clearly and often; actively listen; convey respect; regularly check-in on individual workloads; and offer to help when needed. Without understanding routines or implementing boundaries, leaders risk over or under-communicating, which can curb morale leading to high stress and low productivity.

For any remote team to be successful and productive, they need to be led by someone who trusts that they can do their roles. Creating this trust through positive connections and effective communications means your team is better equipped to handle remote-work challenges, and feel supported to reach out for help when motivation levels are low.”

Ben Thompson, CEO and co-founder of people management platform, Employment Hero

Ben Thompson, motivation in teams

Keeping our teams motivated comes down to strong communication; reward and recognition; and using objectives and key results (OKRs) to stay focused.

It’s impossible to over-communicate in a crisis. Regularly checking-in on both individual employees and broader teams is a reminder that we’re all in this together, and that we’re here to support one another.

Working from home means you often don’t have the chance to thank someone quickly or remind them that they’re doing a great job. Focusing on reward and recognition is essential to keeping staff motivated because it shows that you value their work, even if it’s a quick

 mention on a group Slack channel, or a call-out at an all-hands meeting. Small acknowledgements make a big difference to confidence.

Lastly, we use OKRs to track progress and keep everyone aligned with broader business objectives. This structure shows employees how they’re individually contributing to progress, which can be hugely motivating.”

Rowan Tombs, Head of Strategy at Appboxer

Rowan, motivation in teams

We are keeping staff motivated by addressing these 3 areas: culture, ownership and encouragement.

Culture

Designers and developers can be glued to their computer and phone screens all day. It’s easy to be totally focused on getting many jobs done and hit deadlines but forget to laugh along the way. In the office, we work in a shared environment, share stories and laughter along with the occasional silly meme. Keeping it light hearted and funny helps to improve communication, endorse teamwork and feedback on everyone’s respective jobs. Now that we are in isolation, we continue banter in group messenger chats throughout the day; keeping up communication and hitting deadlines in style!

Ownership

Every fortnight on a Friday afternoon, we do a DL (design and liquids) meeting where there design team has 10min to present resources for inspiration they have used recently, their favourite project right now and encourage someone else in the team very specifically. This helps to reaffirm the designers ownership in their own work, build the teams resources and evolve together.

Encouragement

The aforementioned meetings and communication presents a wonderful opportunity to encourage the team in front of each other. We also run regular check-in meetings held by management, one on one with each person. The outcome is that specific goals for personal and professional development are addressed and each person is held accountable to their growth. We are achieving this together!

Brent Churchill, CEO and Co-Founder, Enlighten

Motivation is a balance between creating the right culture and the right tools.

Leaders must be mindful about how they bring people along on the journey, meeting their needs, engaging them and encouraging them to contribute and fostering a sense of work as more than something they have to do. Leaders have to be transparent and open, showing people that they are a part of the future the company is trying to create, and help nurture leadership aspects in others.

On the other hand, technology is an opportunity for engagement and we can’t be afraid to invest in the right tools, knowing that they can in turn drive collaboration and innovation between people. Automation is an excellent way to give people to pursue value-adds that they’re more passionate about, as long as they are trained to leverage the new tools and given skills to create value in new ways.

Justin Kelly, CEO at Mojo Media

Justin Kelly, motivation in teams

You are defined by your actions, so lead by example. Don’t get your staff to do anything that you wouldn’t do yourself. That rubs off on team dynamics. Motivation is about teamwork and taking the time to celebrate the wins and keeping encouragement levels high. Work will always be challenging, but if you empower your staff to make decisions, and back them up, that will go along way to keeping teams motivated.

Weh Yeoh, Co-Founder and CEO of Umbo

Weh

As COVID-19 struck and offices shut down, how do we go about engaging staff remotely? Answering this question comes back to the fundamental principles around what drives staff. From Dan Pink’s book – Drive – these are autonomy, mastery and purpose. In a global pandemic, as lives are thrown into chaos, there are a few more elements needed – feeling safe and secure, and feeling heard and understood.

We need new forms of leadership in 2020. In the space of a few weeks, Umbo was able to mitigate some of the external stresses of the world and create a safe and fun space for their staff. They pivoted their business to run an event with 500 attendees, all in the space of a few days.

Anthony Justice, CEO of uno Home Loans

Managing remotely is difficult. In a crisis environment, it becomes even more challenging.

As a digital-first business, moving to remote working was easy. At uno, our broker team is contactable through phone and the whole mortgage application process is online. But all businesses require resilience during COVID-19 times.

I believe that there are three components to driving a sustainable business and motivated team: enabling employees, optimising operations and collaboration.

This includes having the right technology to enable collaboration, like video conferencing, internal communication tools and digital workflow platforms; communicating constantly – we get constant feedback on what is/isn’t working and act on it, do daily check-ins and monthly meetings to communicate business updates; and we create collective moments for social activities like Trivia, Friday drinks, online yoga, and ‘lunch and learns’.

I encourage leaders to reinforce their company’s mission, create a sense of belonging, provide steady guidance, and, above all, empathy. This has a flow-on motivational effect through the business.

Monica Watt, Chief Human Resources Officer, ELMO Cloud HR & Payroll

Monica Watt, motivation in teams

An employee’s motivation and an employee’s sense of community and connection are intertwined. To develop motivated employees organisations, need to be fostering a sense of community, communication and collaboration among their workforce.

We all need to belong and have a purpose. When people feel like they are part of a community they do belong, and they care more about their actions and inactions and what the impacts are for those around them. This motivates them to succeed and contribute to their work community.

While remote working may seem like a hurdle to building community it really doesn’t have to be. Work perks that once took place in real life can move to a virtual world. For example, ELMO has moved its twice-weekly yoga sessions into video conferences to help people maintain community.

If organisations want to increase staff motivation levels it starts with building a community that employees are proud of, that rewards them for their contributions and supports them in their professional growth.

Jonathan Moody, CEO and founder, Physio Inq

Jonathan Mood

Being in the health care sector, empathy, innovation and honesty are our main drivers. Our central communication hub, iQ, is important for keeping our team connected to our messaging and each other.

With a national workforce, where many work remotely, I create regular leadership training videos where our team get to see the most raw version of me. During covid-19, I have provided staff with daily video updates on how the company is managing the crisis and tips to help them navigate their way through. It has been an amazing process resulting in a much calmer, connected environment.

We also embrace an ideology of N=1. We focus on individual goals, passions and pursuits and make sure that these fit into the mission of the company as a whole. By allowing our employees to come up with their ideal career pathway, it opens up amazing conversations and new initiatives.

Sonia Motum, Mindset Coach and Mentor at Energy Coaching

Sonia Mutom, motivation in teams

In these unsettling times, many people are facing fear and anxiety, as well as stress and pressure from working remotely at home. Any leaders prioritising keeping staff motivated need to do this with empathy and compassion, recognising that many of their team members might be struggling with loneliness, anxiety, and challenging work environments. 

It’s time for business leaders to focus on their role as ‘enablers’ – we need to help employees to focus on the possibilities, develop manageable goals and objectives, and recognise that everyone has the choice to choose trust over fear. 

The more that business leaders trust and empower their teams during these difficult times, the more engagement and trust they will receive in return. Teams with a positive and action-oriented mindset will also be more productive, and this mindset is easier to achieve when goals are smaller, realistic, and celebrated at every stage.

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