One size doesn’t fit all – tailor your motivation strategy and see your staff flourish

Let’s face it, life isn’t easy. There are 101 demands on our time and unless we were born into money, we have to work hard to survive. If you won the lottery, would you be in work the next day? The answer is it depends, doesn’t it? There are lots of variables. When you think about it, diversity is actually something that is consistent throughout the human population, and in fact, throughout the natural world as a whole. There is an element of unpredictability in everything, isn’t there?


Gone are the days of rigidity, labels and boxes to define staff behaviours and approaches. As individuals with vast differences, a more flexible and tailored approach is required and thankfully more and more businesses are beginning to understand and see the benefits of this.

It doesn’t matter if you are an ENTJ Myers Briggs type and those types are ‘usually’ motivated by money. In the real world, if you aren’t motivated by money and you are demotivated when you don’t receive regular feedback – will you be motivated by a general pay rise across the whole company? Will that really sustain your motivation to come to work for an entire year? It may well be motivating initially and you may feel grateful but ultimately, if you still do not receive the actual thing you need, your motivation will dip right back down, quite quickly.

So, what’s the answer? How do you maintain consistent levels of staff motivation across a diverse group of people? Would you need to do something different for each person?

The answer is, in a way, yes – you do need to tailor your approach to meet their individual needs. However, this isn’t as complicated as it sounds and there are some simple approaches you can implement that can support this approach for the benefit of your whole organisation – big or small.

Get to Know Your People

The first step is to really get to know your staff as individuals. This is best done in a  one to one meeting, ideally, face to face. If you don’t have much of a relationship with the person first build some rapport before launching into the questions as you want to establish an open and trusting relationship for this to be as effective as possible. When this has been achieved, you can start asking some open questions – what is important to you about your work? What if anything has been motivating in the past? When you are having a bad day, what get’s you through?

These questions elicit the motivation behind the task and this knowledge is very powerful if you want to understand and support someone on their level.

Once you understand your staff members ‘WHY’, as in why they come to work, and the ‘WHAT’, as in what is important to them, you have a golden opportunity to both benefit from this insight.

Create a Benchmark

When you are looking to implement new processes and strategies for staff motivation, it can be really important to first establish where you are. This will help you establish the impact of any changes when it comes to evaluating success. The best way to do this is via an anonymous survey. Why anonymous? If you want brutal honesty, you will find that this is more likely when the responses can be made anonymously. Why do you want brutal honesty? Because, if you want to address problems, you first need to know the reality and in this case, not knowing is not going to help you to make a positive change to your staff’s motivation levels.

When deciding the questions for this survey, it is worth considering these points:

  • When asking about a problem, try and follow this with an opportunity for them to solve it. For example, you might ask, what demotivates you at work? The next question can then be, what needs to happen to avoid this in future? This creates empowerment and the sharing of responsibility as ultimately, motivation is a shared responsibility, it’s about give and take, it’s listening and responding, understanding, adapting and learning…
  • Remember to ask what motivates them! Whilst you will be getting this information in a one to one setting, having it all together in a survey you can see if there are any themes and trends to help inform the more general decisions for team related motivational activity ideas
  • Ask them what they would change/implement/stop/start if they were in charge. This is great for again empowering them to feel heard and understood

Goal Setting

Setting monthly goals with each of your staff is vital to achieving consistent productivity and motivation. This should be led by the employee and only guided by you as the line manager. The most important thing is to establish what they would like to achieve both short term and long term and what they need in from you in order to achieve that. A good question to ask is – what would stop you from achieving this goal? This will help you uncover some things that might demotivate them and you can look at how you can work together to overcome these.

This coordinated and flexible approach to goal setting itself can be quite motivating for staff, as they will likely come away feeling heard, understood and supported.

Integrated Motivation

In addition to the above, for general staff morale, it can be a good idea to invest a small budget for regular motivational activities, perhaps monthly, or each quarter. A popular choice can be hiring a motivational business speaker or team building activity days. These really help for general motivation as they break up the ‘work time’, whilst providing some reflection space. Although, as before, you will get the best results when you ask members of staff what general motivation activities they would like, rather than booking something you think they will like! Yes, not everyone will agree but it’s ok to appeal to the majority sometimes. After all, we can only do our best and we can’t be all things to all people.