Recently, I was called to speak on “Employee Motivation” at a Business Luncheon organized by a Travel brand discussing ‘Innovation in Business’. Yes, the buzz term – “Innovation” is still very much in Business. The organizers wanted to know how my company with its little crew has been able to withstand the recessionary winds and continue sailing on while our bigger step brothers are almost on SOS rescue missions. Real innovation, hard work or sheer luck; what was our secret recipe? Maybe a mix of all but I would stress more on ‘Team Spirit’ of our small but extraordinarily motivated workforce.
As the advertising and creative industry moves into the next century, everything and nothing has changed for all those involved. And if this seems a rather incongruous statement, let us first mull over our parental ancestors - Adam and Eve. Way back before time began, Eve motivated and Adam succumbed to what could be described as the first incentive - the legendary apple.
I think this is where the root of the changes, or not, in our industry lie. Certain fundamentals of human behavior always remain the same irrespective of time, fashion and history. There will always be a need for people to be motivated and rewarded in their personal and professional lives. So while the foundations of our whole business remain intact, performance is always influenced by behavior. It is all about stimulus and enticement to create the 'best' from people, which of course ultimately impacts organizational culture, brand success and ultimately, bottom line.
The changes that companies will experience, and my company is no exception, are the pace and way that we work. With the advent of technology and science, the physical 'make up' of staff performance programmes has of course evolved. Back in the 70's when new companies formed and management mantra evolved, employees may have aspired to be awarded a Polaroid camera or a Beegees trilogy, whereas today the sky is really and literally the limit. In fact, there is this incentive company which arranges space rides aboard experimental spacecrafts and even jet fighters for a price for your star performers.
Now, new technology and new products develop at such a rate that the challenge is too keep one step ahead and explore just what really is cutting edge and what will actually inspire. This is certainly true of companies worldwide as they strive to keep one step ahead of global product development.
The advance in technology also reflects the way that people have developed. Employees have become far more empowered, and expect to make an active contribution to the management of the organization they work for. Not surprisingly, with their participation and dedication increasing, so does their need for incentive and reward. A staff performance programme must understand what actually drives individuals, as a change in approach is the key to influencing a shift in long term behavior. As for the ongoing debate in the industry as to whether cash, vouchers, merchandise or indeed travel are the most effective mechanisms for a performance based incentive scheme, I think they all play an dynamic part.
We are a ‘incentive middle-of-the-road neutral’ company and actually try hard to implement schemes that will not only encourage staff but make sure that they are equipped with the right skills to get the most out of their individual and therefore total performance. We also spend a great deal of time and investment in inspiring our own people to commit to our brand and culture. It is absolutely crucial for our success, just as it is for our clients, that as an organization we have to have a well-trained, motivated, strong and devoted workforce.
At our company, we believe that whether you use a trip to Dubai, a custom designed IPod or a tailored incentive voucher scheme to egg on your employees, the end result remains the same. It is about identifying exactly what will keep an individual motivated to 'practice' the values of the organization he/she works for. Based on this behavior, lifestyle and aspirations, you can tailor a motivation programme that covers every incentive tool or just one, but it must be part of a clear strategy that encourages employees to take accountability for enhancing their company brand.
Let’s take a branded retail outlet for instance. The manager, the cashier, the merchandiser and the accountant will all have very dissimilar demands of a synchronized business performance programme. So that is where the challenge lies. In tailoring a programme which 'speaks' to everyone individually and yet at the same time, can potentially make use of every motivational and incentive element available. The programme must also understand how each of these people plays a critical part in their company brand culture.
As to the future of employee motivation, the logistics are certainly shifting - 'e' gifts and online incentive schemes have grown and matured to sophisticated limits, travel has becomes more exploratory, and employee lifestyles these days are increasingly urbane. However the nucleus of any business, and of course the industry at large, is about motivating people to give their best performance - to build triumphant brands across the world.
So, by 2100, staff will probably want a trip to the Moon, reward points to stay at an underwater deep sea hotel, vouchers to buy longevity pills, etcetera but these would be still just merchandise used to induce and incentivize employees as part of a staff performance programme. And I think this is what makes the business of employee motivation so interesting - the fact that we would have changed dramatically and yet, since the world began, NOT at all. Eve perhaps, has a lot to answer for!