Will Work For Food? Understanding What Motivates Your Team

not happy about treat

When training dogs, you must have a good understanding of what motivates the one you are working with. Some dogs love a good ear scratch, while others may be fearful of touch. Some may follow a small piece of liver for miles, while others snub it to go play with their canine buddies instead. We cannot dictate to a dog what will motivate them, so as a dog trainer, you quickly learn to discover what the dog loves and use it accordingly to keep them motivated and engaged. This is no different than with an employee, however, the true benefit we have with people is that we can just ask them. Unfortunately, most leaders or managers never do ask and assuming you know what motivates your team is not a good practice. By not knowing what motivates each employee, you may experience a lower retention rate and low team morale. In this post, we will discuss what a motivational survey is and different ways you can motivate your team.

Motivational Survey
At dogma, I created a team motivational survey that we put out twice a year. It is an optional survey, but we encourage team members to take the short time to fill it out. We only require they do this once, but they are welcome to update it as they advance within the company. We tend to have a good response from these and  we aim to reward them accordingly shortly after they fill it out. For example, if they say they would like a gift certificate to a certain restaurant, we ensure that’s what they get next when they cash in on our Initiative Program. This demonstrates we listen to them and value the time they take to do these surveys, and that we actually do take action on them. By taking it seriously and responding in a timely fashion, you will also increase their compliance to do more of these in the future.

We ask the below questions in our survey, but you can easily update these to match your business:

  1. What aspects of your job do you find the most rewarding?
  2. How do you want to be rewarded? What do you want to receive for a reward?
  3. How do you work best?
  4. What can we do to make your job easier?
  5. What influences impact your work negatively?
  6. How would you like to be recognized for your accomplishments?
  7. What would be 3 ideal gift certificates for you to receive?
  8. What are some employee perks you would like to see implemented?
  9. What are some skills you are interested in developing or classes you would like to take?
  10. What would you like to be doing in 5 years?
  11. What are some hobbies or special activities that you participate in?

This provides me with essential information about my team. It allows me to get to know them a bit better, help guide their career development, reward them accordingly and make changes to their work environment or structure. I want my team to love their jobs and enjoy the people and environment that they work in, and this helps me to do so. Not all team members will disclose exactly what they would prefer for rewards/motivation, but by learning a bit more about them, you will have a better idea of what they look for in a job. At dogma, we want individuals who are looking for more than just a job, so this highlights those team members that match well with our core values. We record the results within our team documentation and typically categorize motivation into the below categories.

This is the first item that always comes to everyone’s mind when discussing employee motivation. Most people rely on their income to pay their bills, buy food and cover necessities. You should always be fair with pay, and if you want higher quality employees, paying above average wages is ideal. Bonuses are a great way to acknowledge good performance and initiative. We are also about to roll out an incentive program to provide cash bonuses to reward special roles, exceptional performance or for items such as a recruitment bonus. A good leader recognizes the value of their employees and fair pay is a great start, however, more money typically never directly equates to better performance. There is often much more that motivates an employee and makes them want to continue working with your organization.

You may be surprised to know that this tends to be the item that motivates employees the most and tends to be one that the most employees feel is received the least. This can be as simple as a thank you. I would say thank you to every employee at the end of their shift and remember to do so throughout the day as they complete their tasks. It is such a small gesture that goes a long way, and it helped build some great relationships as well. It is good to know if a team member prefers private or public recognition. If they excel with public recognition, I would ensure I do this at something like a team meeting. We also use our team Facebook page to make announcements to recognize team for excellence. Recognition should be the top of your list as you can quickly make your team feel under-valued and under-appreciated if this is ignored.

Some team members develop strong relationships with their co-workers and consider them their close friends. These team members love social events and enjoy anything that fosters team-building and allows them to spend more time with their team mates. Schedule regular activities you can do outside of work. You do not have to pick up the tab for all of them either. We do pub nights that anyone is welcome to and they are responsible for their own food and drink (we may occasionally pay for it all, or a round of drinks or order some appetizers for all to share). We schedule yearly events such as a team bowling night every March, a team potluck bbq every September and an annual Christmas team outing every December. We also have team events/outings set as options for them to cash their initiative program rewards towards and I am happily surprised at how many team members put their rewards towards this. I also reward these team members with lunches out and with different ways we can socialize outside of the work environment and get to know each other better.

Many of your team may have families or significant others they want to spend more quality time with. These team members will be more motivated by working hours that allow them to better do this, and to have holiday time off. They would like a job that allows them to spend as much time as possible with their family or significant others. For these team members, paid time off to recognize outstanding performance is highly motivating. Also schedule team events where families are welcome or reward them with gift certificates that allow for a family outing or night out with their spouse.

Some team members thrive on gaining more responsibility within their jobs. They are motivated to do more and go out of their way to demonstrate their initiative to you. These are the go-getters and they love to work and learn. If left unchecked, things can get out of hand, but in my experience, they are the future leaders of your company. They are motivated by the work and want to see the business do well. Be sure to provide them with the opportunity to learn more and grow within your organization.

Social Cause
This is a main motivation for many of my team. They are passionate individuals who believe in what we are doing. They want to improve the care and handling of dogs and believe in animal rights issues. They love and want to be involved in our support for animal rescue, with many doing much on their own to help. Most people want to feel like they are doing something to make a difference. By not taking a part of social efforts, you are missing igniting a passion in your employees that benefits the cause, the business and your customers. Choose a cause that matters to you and be aware of what matters to your team.

Your Business Services or Products
Many of our team were introduced to our business because of our services. We provide a majority of them for free or at a very low cost to the team. It is uncommon to have team that do not take advantage of these, and if they don’t, many aren’t long term with us anyways. We also provide pet products at discounted rates and are bringing in dog food to them at cost to help with their monthly pet expenses. Do not ignore what your business may be providing and how it can be offered as a perk to your team. These can be great perks for your team and a minimal cost to you.

The Little Things
Don’t forget the little things. Like the pleases and the thank you’s. Asking them how things are. Remembering and acknowledging big events in their lives. Give them a small birthday gift. Take them out or give them a gift for their anniversaries with your company. And do big things for when they have been with you for milestones like 5 or 10 years. Surprise them with lunch. Bring them coffees. Extend services to their families. Help them when times are tough. Take the time to learn what motivates each employee as providing the same rewards to all may leave some feeling disgruntled or upset. Vary things, and least of all, have fun!

How are some ways you motivate your team? What challenges or successes have you had? Share in the comments below and be sure to follow my blog to receive updates!




Positive Reinforcement: Keeping your Team Motivated through Incentives

sit treat

I am a reward-based dog trainer which means I teach a dog what to do and make that behaviour rewarding, so that they enjoy performing it and want to do it more. It’s a simple concept really: perform a certain action, receive something good, repeat behaviour. An educated dog trainer always focuses on this concept first. We may ignore an unwanted behaviour, or we may punish (provide a negative consequence, never through physical force or fear/intimidation), but should always be focused on teaching the dog what is expected of them, and rewarding them for it. This exact concept applies to our team. If a team member is not performing, I first need to ensure that I have taught them what is expected of them. If it is a performance issue, let’s first look at how we are rewarding our team, and we will discuss how to handle underperformers in another post.

1. Have a Structured Incentive Program
If you supervise a team, you must have a structured incentive program in place. We work with dogs, so we give out bones whenever a team member goes above and beyond. Our management team has an outline of example tasks and/or initiatives a team member may complete, with a number of bones given for each. This ensures it is fair for all and that one manager is not over-compensating or another manager is not giving out enough.

We track the number of bones given for each team member, and for what task. We keep these posted in an employee area so everyone can see how their team is doing. At the end of the month, one team member for our entire team is awarded ‘The Biggest Boner’ award (a bit of a tongue-in-cheek name, but the team love it). They trade in their bones for a whatever items they would like. We have a list of rewards and the bones required, which range from gift certificates, paid time off, store products or they can put into a pool for large team awards.

2. The Timing of the Reward
As a dog trainer, you learn that timing is an integral part of the reward system. This also applies to your team. As soon as you witness a team member do something that you want to see more of, you must reward it immediately. A supervisor would acknowledge what they are recognizing and communicate the number of bones received immediately. If it is something they do not see in action, they reward as soon as they learn about it. As part of this, we are also implementing a process where we let the team know who the lead earner of bones is per week. This provides some more immediate feedback, and acknowledges a team member who may have had an outstanding week. We also encourage team members to recommend each other for bones, which has created more collaboration and participation in the program.

3. Rewarding Excellence
As part of our strategic planning for 2014, one of our themes was Excellence. This meant that we focused on providing excellence for the entire customer experience. Out of this, we also learned that we needed to recognize excellence in our team members. Our incentive programs allows us to constantly be acknowledging and rewarding great behaviour, but we wanted to do more for exceptional performance.

We keep jackpot awards for these moments. We have a variety of items on hand that are not part of the rewards and give these as additional bonuses for excellence. We also do shout-outs of excellence on our employee page to recognize the team member. We may also jackpot reward in other ways. For example, recently we were short staffed and two team members came to work and gave it their all and were able to leave early. They were thrilled with being able to leave early, but we also told them we were paying their time when they returned. It is a low cost way to show your team you truly value their commitment and hard work, and they were more deserving of this small token of appreciation.

If the whole team is working hard, we may just do a pizza lunch or bring in a small treat. I have learned that humans are just as motivated by food rewards as dogs are! Another time the team had been working hard while we were short staffed, I bought them all a gift certificate for a movie and dinner night out. Ensure you recognize every time they put in that extra effort to ensure your business runs well.

4. Do Not Over Reward
Do not reward every task and ensure you are rewarding when they show the initiative. We had a challenge where the manager had left a list of tasks and what bones would be earned for completion. This quickly devalued the bones and demotivated the team from putting in the extra effort when they could just complete tasks.

We also had another incident where a manager gave out 50 bones for a task that deserved some bones, but the 50 was far more than any we had ever gave out. This can be unfair to the other team, and you also need to ensure it does not show favouritism. It was an item we would see many more team members do, so should we be giving 50 bones out every time? This is what caused us to create the guideline for how many bones/tasks, which has alleviated this problem

6. Track Your Performance
And finally, a good incentive program measures the performance of yourself as a leader, or your managers. If the team is not getting much for rewards, it is a sign that they are not providing them the positive feedback that is a crucial part of your team and your business success. And too many rewards can demotivate the team as well. They just come to expect them. So track your managers delivery of incentives. I have two locations, so I compare and it gives me some excellent feedback on the overall performance at each one.

If you do not have something structured in place, make it your goal to roll it out for the next month. I consider this one of the most important parts of our company culture and team building, and it has brought everyone closer. Your customers and your business will thank you for it!

Questions? Email me at megan@dogmatraining.com!