New Ways to Motivate Your Staff

by Diane Berenbaum

Need New Ways to Motivate your Staff?

You've tried them all - balloons, contests, posters and cake. How do you keep your associates energized day after day, year after year? How do you energize yourself to come up with new ideas to motivate and inspire them?

That was the topic of a recent ICSA (International Customer Service Association) Chapter Meeting. Companies and consultants shared ideas that have worked for them. Perhaps you'll find one (or two) that will add a spark to your team and yield bottom-line results.

Peer Recognition Awards

Recognition and awards are far more meaningful when they come from co-workers. These awards build cooperation and collaboration versus competition for management's attention.

Here are some awards created by customer service organizations:

  • LIFE (Leadership Is For Everyone) Awards: If associates see someone doing something that deserves recognition, they can give him/her a LIFE Award. They can even recognize co-workers for their participation in activities outside of work.
  • Thank You Notes: Everyone receives a pad of notes with "Thank You" on the top of each page. Anyone can make out a Thank You (TY) note to express appreciation for something another associate did or said. They highlight the reason for the TY on the note and sign their name.

    All of the TY notes are posted on an Award Board. At the end of each month, the Reward and Recognition Team picks a winner. The winner and the person who nominated him/her get prizes.
  • Living Our Values Awards: These awards are linked directly to an organization's values. This is a tangible way to reinforce values and behaviors aligned with them. Co-workers nominate their peers and note the value they see modeled. The organization has a catalog of gifts that can be purchased with the appropriate number of awards. (The desire to win a certain gift can help ensure the long-term impact of this program).

Creative Incentives

In a difficult economy, you may have limited resources available for financial incentives. So, get creative! Here are a few ways companies provide incentives without spending a lot of money:

  • Coupons: Design clever coupons for desirable rewards such as one hour off, two hour lunch with a buddy, extra dress down days or, the ultimate, have your manager wash your car! (You may want to save this last one for nice weather!).

  • Creative Displays: Create a mascot that the whole team can identify with (better yet - let the team pick its own mascot). One organization picked Mr. Potato Head and designed a Team Goal Board with this mascot, complete with moveable parts. Every time the team met an agreed-upon goal, they got to move the part of their choice!

    Another organization developed a board with the theme "Life's A Beach". The Board had a map with clearly marked destinations. Each week, they had a goal to reach another destination; if they reached it, then everyone received a beach-themed gift like beach balls, water bottles and towels.

Ensure Bottom-line Results from your Incentive Program

Coming up with a clever idea to motivate your staff is one thing; coming up with ideas that yield bottom-line results is another. Here are four principles of an effective, value-added incentive program. Following these principles will allow you to make a meaningful contribution to your organization's morale and bottom line:

  • Link to a Real Business Need: Incentives tied to a real need (e.g. attendance, service quality, teamwork) will generate spark AND business results. And, if you align them with your core values, you reinforce the foundation of your corporate culture.
  • Let Employees Pick the Incentives: You will see greater buy-in, commitment and participation if the employees get to choose the incentives.
  • Keep Changing the Program: Incentive programs can get stale after a while. To keep up the momentum and the morale, keep changing the program.
  • Reward Improvement; Not Just Goal Attainment: Some associates will give up if they cannot achieve the goal. Others will be de-motivated if the same "star" wins every time.
To motivate everyone, be sure everyone has a chance to win. Encourage and reward improvement - it shows that you care - and that's one of the greatest motivators of all.
Diane Berenbaum is a long-time contributor and former editor of the MAGIC Service Newsletter. She has more than twenty-five years of experience as a consultant, coach, and facilitator. Diane is the co-author of How to Talk to Customers: Create a Great Impression Every Time with MAGIC® .
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