Thought leaders 2010: The year ahead: Inspiration encourages perspiration

Key Points

  • Inspiring your team to work harder, perform better and drive the business forward is even more critical when you do not have the benefit of inherently positive messages such as bonuses and pay awards
  • Good reward programmes can generate tangible business results
  • Tools such as recognition are important in supporting employee performance

A motivated workforce will boost business results, says Sara Davies, reward and HR services director at Ladbrokes

Motivating employees has been a focus for HR teams and the businesses they support for years and many HR professionals have asked the question: What motivates our staff? There is no simple answer because everyone’s motivation for doing things is different – and that is the real challenge. Perhaps what we need to do as reward and HR professionals is look at this in a different way. As I read through articles and reviews on the subject, the word that came to mind was not motivation, but inspiration. Inspiring our employees through leadership and capturing hearts and minds is a better strategy than having a set of tick-box activities that we run through once a year, however motivational they might be.

The current economic climate has posed new challenges. Companies we would never have dreamed of seeing close are gone, and in such a competitive environment, inspiration could be the differentiator between success and failure. Inspiring your team to work harder, perform better and drive the business forward is even more critical when you do not have the benefit of inherently positive messages such as bonuses and pay awards.

Business decisions

Inspiring your workforce calls for leadership and communication, and to do this, everyone in your business has to understand what you need them to do as individuals, the basis for business decisions and the link between their performance and reward.

Reward departments need to evolve and dedicate as much time to communicating with and inspiring employees as they do to designing and implementing reward programmes. The return on investment modelling can help to highlight the benefit of such programmes and, in turn, support the communication message. Explaining why something is done and what difference it will make at a local and corporate level is important. Believing that your actions make a difference to the overall business performance is inspirational; it drives you forward and it changes behaviour.

As reward professionals, we have some great opportunities to lead and raise our profile in the HR function. This is due to a number of factors: more companies are realising the value of reward specialists; our function can create programmes with real return on investment that can generate tangible business results; and the programmes we design can change behaviour and inspire people to perform, whether their motivations are linked to job satisfaction and doing their job well or maximising bonus and incentive achievements.

Positive approach

Whatever a person’s motivation, if it is positive, it can generate important business results. If inspired and motivated people pass their positive approach on to their colleagues and customers, you can start to engender a business culture that gains its own momentum. This is where, once inspired, employees are driving their own performance and delivery. Tools such as recognition are vital to support this, because recognition has the power to increase an employee’s motivation and, in turn, drive profitability.

The incentive and recognition programmes Ladbrokes has introduced over the last few years reflect this. The key elements have been round clarity of purpose – what we want people to achieve, recognising them for their achievements and using previous winners to inspire others to perform. This has led to improvements in our service to customers and has seen correlations between our best performing shops and the performance of the people in them. There is much more to do, but those who have inspired others have not only done so within their peer group, but have also inspired the business’s leaders.

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