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Marc Burrage Managing Director, Hays Poland


Updated: 4th August 2020

If you were to ask your employees to work for free, the chances are that most of them would decline the invitation. But apart from telling us what we already know – namely that money is important for putting food on the table – it doesn’t tell us how big a motivating factor it really is once our basic needs are met.

There have been many studies conducted into the subject over the years, and one conclusion they all reach is that, for most of us, money’s more of a sub-motivator than a prime mover when it comes to why we come to work every day.

In fact, our own survey of over 5,500 people conducted at the end of 2019 confirmed that only 13 per cent of those looking for a new job at the time were doing so because they were dissatisfied with their current salary and benefits. In fact, other factors played far more of a role; 40 per cent were looking for a new position simply because they felt it was time for a change, and 22 per cent wanted improved training and career progression opportunities.

So, let’s take a closer look at some of those factors that are likely to matter to your people more than money in really inspiring and motivating them every day.

Five key factors that will motivate your employees more than money


1. Feeling a sense of meaning and purpose in their work


As our CEO, Alistair Cox has previously written about, people are now increasingly looking for more meaning and purpose in their professional lives – in other words, they want to feel that they’re really contributing to and making a difference to our world. I think it’s safe to say that the pandemic has only heightened this feeling among professionals; after seeing the heroic efforts from healthcare and key workers, many may be re-evaluating their career choices in a bid to find more meaning, perhaps opting to focus on a different industry entirely. They may be looking to craft their existing role in some way, or perhaps even exploring a complete career change.

In fact, Harvard Business Review has reported that more than nine in 10 of us would be willing to earn less money for the opportunity to do more meaningful work – showing just how important a person’s purpose really is to them. As illustrated by productivity and leadership expert Bryan Collins, “A skilled employee might quit a company if he or she can’t see how their work affects the final product.”

Various research findings point to just how crucial it is to give your employees a sense that their roles are meaningful and purposeful, if they are to feel motivated. 57 per cent of Millennials, for instance, have said it’s very important for their work to have a positive impact on the world. And a 2017 study from Globoforce’s WorkHuman Research Institute and IBM’s Smarter Workforce Institute concluded that meaningful work was the single biggest contributor to a positive employee experience.

So, you now know just how important meaning and purpose are to your people – but what can you actually do to ensure they perceive their work to be more meaningful and purposeful? In his aforementioned blog, Alistair Cox outlines how leaders need to work with their teams to help them craft their roles in a way that delivers meaning for them; “bring your team together to discuss in an open forum which tasks they each enjoy and derive the most personal meaning from. […] Once you have that information, work with them to reassign, redesign or redistribute key tasks in a way that ensures every member of your team remains consistently productive and fulfilled.”

Dan Cable, Professor of Organisational Behaviour at London Business School, also has some useful advice for helping your team to feel the purpose in their work in this article, including making their and your company’s work feel personal, authentic and perpetual.

It’s important that your employees understand the role they play within your business and feel like a vital cog. After all, the more impact an employee has in your business, the more likely they are to feel connected to it, and to aggregate the business’s success with their own.

2. Working in a positive company culture


Company culture can play a major role in driving employee motivation – as shown by research conducted by Deloitte which found a strong correlation between employees who claim to feel happy and valued at work, and those who regard their organisation as having a strong culture. And as our CEO, Alistair Cox said, “The culture of your organisation is its personality. It’s what makes it different from all the others. It’s what attracts talent and makes that talent want to stay with you for the long-haul, no matter what challenges they face along the way.”

Improving your company culture has certainly become more challenging as a result of the crisis – however, we should see this change in ‘normality’ as the perfect opportunity to revisit, reboot and revive our company cultures. After all, we’re going to have to work hard to ensure they are sustained with the rise of hybrid working patterns, whereby a portion of employees are based remotely, and others are based in-office.

Here are three areas you should consider examining in order to improve your company culture, and therefore the motivation of your people:

  • Wellbeing. As our CEO has urged, it’s important to build a culture that prioritises wellbeing and care, being mindful of the risk of burnout in your team. Measures to tackle workaholic tendencies in your employees may include introducing wellness programmes, which could even help to give your firm a competitive advantage – Experian, for example, have recently started offering virtual yoga classes. Mental health support should be a key focus in such programmes, so that your workers never feel overwhelmed, but still feel motivated to give their best. Gallup found that 53 per cent of employees say greater work-life balance and better personal wellbeing is “very important” to them – so it should be very important to you, too.
  • Compassion. Research has suggested that as many as four in five leaders misunderstand the concept of compassionate leadership, thinking it means “being soft” or “loving everyone”. But as our German Chief Operating Officer, Christoph Niewerth, has explained, compassionate leadership can actually be the opposite of this. You don’t necessarily have to be an authoritarian, ruthless taskmaster to effectively motivate your employees; compassionate qualities such as self-awareness, an ability to put yourself in the shoes of others and giving every member of your team the support they need to thrive, can be just as important. Niewerth has additionally detailed eight steps to take to become a more compassionate leader and ultimately build a more compassionate culture – a blog I would highly recommend reading if you want to ensure your employees feel fully supported and motivated.
  • Diversity, inclusion and equality. While diversity in the workplace has often been encouraged as a way of ensuring a company’s workforce reflects wider society, Standard Life Aberdeen’s chief executive Keith Skeoch says that committing your organisation to a diverse workforce is much more than simply “the right thing to do”. Remember that building an inclusive workforce is important for making everyone feel comfortable being their true, authentic selves. The more diverse and inclusive your organisation is, the less afraid your employees will be to share their perspectives and insights, in a positive company culture that actually values the contributions of those from a wide range of demographics and backgrounds. This, in turn, will motivate them to give their best, in the knowledge that they will be seen in the company and able to make a difference. You can find practical and realistic advice for ensuring diversity and inclusion remains high on your agenda as we transition to a new era of work from Charlotte Sweeney OBE – Diversity, Inclusion and Equality Specialist – in this podcast.

3. Being recognised for their hard work


Employees must be acknowledged and thanked equally for all of their contributions and achievements. The influential U.S. Clinical Psychologist Frederick Herzberg would have defined this as a ‘hygiene factor’; something which will demotivate employees if it is not offered. As outlined by our UK&I Director of People and Culture, Trisha Brookes, it is human nature to want others to acknowledge and recognise you for your contributions, and recognising your employees helps to create an emotional connection between yourselves and the wider organisation.

However, you can do far more than just the minimum of financially remunerating an employee for their efforts and giving them the occasional proverbial ‘pat on the back’. Indeed, it’s in your own interests to praise your employees for a job well done. This is because there are various powerful effects that employee praise has, including setting a standard of success, encouraging people to believe in themselves more, and improving your chances of retaining and attracting talent.

But recognition also comes in many forms and should be tailored to each individual. It’s largely up to you – your good people management skills – how well you execute it. Some employees would feel greatly encouraged by formal recognition in front of other colleagues, such as a certificate or a shout-out on a group video call, while others would prefer more personal and private praise. What’s certain is that we all get a kick out of being acknowledged for a job well done.

Bear in mind, though, that this recognition might be different in a hybrid working world than it was in the pre-crisis world; you may not physically see some of your team members regularly. Therefore, you need to ensure your methods of recognition are inclusive of, and resonate as deeply with, your remote workers as well as your office-based workers. For instance, before you call a remote worker to personally thank them, think about whether you could instead organise a quick team meeting, and publicly recognise them there?

Sadly, only 24 per cent of people say their leader always encourages them and recognises suggestions for improvement. This is a surprisingly low figure, considering it doesn’t always take a lot of effort from you, but it really can make their day. After all, as our CEO, Alistair Cox said, “You don’t need to send 30,000 handwritten, personalised thank you notes as Doug Conant, CEO of Campbell Soup Company did, but you do need to show gratitude in your own way. You don’t need to say thank you every day, to everyone – do it only when it’s earned, and when you really mean it. Try to personalise it too – it’ll be much more powerful, even human if you do.”

4. Opportunities for learning and development in the workplace


By upskilling your employees, you’re showing them that they matter to the business, that you see their potential and that there is room for progression within their role. What’s more motivating than being encouraged and supported to become a better version of you?

Sure enough, according to research from LinkedIn last year, 94 per cent of employees said they would stay at their companies longer if their employers took an active role in their learning and development. Not only that, but our own study at the end of 2019 also found that 22 per cent of people would leave their current job if they were offered better training opportunities elsewhere.

As Jane McNeill, Director of Hays Australia, recommends, you should first conduct a skills assessment before deciding on what training you’re going to organise for each employee; “This will enable you to identify any skills gaps and consider what skills – such as agile working, resilience or adaptability – will be important going forward.” The employee will better appreciate, and be more motivated by, a sensible and well-considered plan of training for them. And remember, it doesn’t matter if your business or department has no budget for learning and development right now, many of us have faced cuts in these areas in recent months. There are plenty of free and relevant training opportunities your employees can attend, such as webinars and online conferences – you just need to spend some time searching for them.

Employers should want to develop their employees. After all, research published in the International Journal of Hospitality Management found that training in hospitality organisations was associated with several benefits, including more consistent job performance, heightened job satisfaction, and lower business costs. So, employee upskilling brings just as many positives for employers as it does employees – something, therefore, well worth investing in.

I know you will have many pressing demands and responsibilities at the moment, but, as our CEO recently discussed, “It might not feel like a priority right now, but it’s those companies that spend time and resource in investing in the training and development of their people now, will likely emerge at the other end [of the pandemic] in the best possible situation. And as a leader, it’s your responsibility to be doing everything you can do to ensure your organisation is in the best shape possible to thrive when this all passes. […] Your employees will thank you for it”.

5. A clear path of career progression


It’s not enough just to enrol employees on training courses and webinars, though. What’s even more motivating for most professionals is being shown that there are more rungs on the career ladder that they can climb to within your business.

A recent Addison Group report, for example, found that three quarters of jobseekers considered being passed over for a promotion as a reason to go job hunting. Other research from LinkedIn, meanwhile, has indicated that 45 per cent of people left their old job at least partly due to concern about a lack of opportunities for advancement, ahead of other potential reasons such as “I was unsatisfied with the leadership of senior management” and “I was unsatisfied with the work environment / culture”.

All of these grievances can be fairly easily resolved by clearly articulating a plan of progression for your employees. Make sure that you regularly have meetings to discuss the employee’s ambitions and their promotion prospects within the business. This is especially important given the current circumstances, as Nick Deligiannis, our Australia and New Zealand Managing Director, has explained, “in today’s world of work, where change is the only constant, being open and honest with your staff about their career ambitions, and working together to achieve them, can give you a strong retention advantage. So, it’s worthwhile taking a deep breath and making time to sit with your staff to have this important conversation.”

As for if an employee’s promotion aspirations can’t currently be realised because of a lack of financial resource or that position currently being filled, then giving them increased autonomy or say within the business could be a satisfactory compromise. Hays UK Director, Karen Young, has previously described how a horizontal career move – for example, moving across into a more technical position within the same organisation – can be just as good as a more obviously upward one for an employee’s long-term career prospects. It’s well worth exploring these possibilities for any workers of yours, then, who may feel re-invigorated by the opportunity to explore a new area and fill skills gaps. This, in turn, could put them in a better position to make big career strides in the future.

That real sense of effort being rewarded with wider opportunities, whether it’s a promotion or horizontal move within the same department, another area of the business, or working in a new role in another country altogether, will fuel the motivational drive. However you chose to communicate and organise your people’s progression opportunities, it’s essential this remains a priority for you right now, as our CEO, Alistair Cox said, “don’t neglect or put any pre-crisis promotion plans on hold. Revamp your traditional performance metrics and what ‘good looks like’ in a post-pandemic world.”

Make employee motivation a priority before it’s too late


I hope that the above has resonated with you, and provided concrete advice to help you ensure your people feel inspired and motivated at work. In summary, you don’t need to depend solely on salary increases to try to motivate your employees. The truth is that there really are plenty more motivators for the typical employee than money, as I’ve outlined above.

So, carefully consider and implement these five motivators in ways that work well for your business as we enter the new era of work, and you will have the best possible chance of building a truly motivated workforce that will serve you well for months and years to come.


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Leading nearly 400 hundred employees across six offices, Marc Burrage was appointed as Managing Director for Hays Poland in September 2019.

Marc joined Hays at the beginning of 2012 as Regional Director for Hong Kong. In 2014 he was asked to head up the Hays Talent Solutions business in Asia, before being appointed Managing Director for Hays Japan in 2015. In this role, Marc was responsible for the day-to-day operations and growth of the Japanese business across all specialisms, supplying permanent, executive search, temporary, contract and onsite solutions.

Marc has broad industry and functional expertise, with a proven track record of continued success and has led and grown businesses in the UK, Australia, New Zealand and Asia. Prior to working in the recruitment industry Marc held various sales and marketing management positions in the automotive industry. He has extensive business transformation and change management experience and is adept at building, developing and leading cross functional teams. Marc was a board member for the Leadership Institute of New Zealand and studied strategy at Ashridge International Business School.



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