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 must quickly 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. Shockingly, most leaders or managers never do ask and assume they know what motivates their team. By not knowing what motivates each employee, you may experience higher turnover rates, low team morale or lack of engagement.

Motivatation matters so I’m going to cover some ways you can better understand and utilize motivation for your team.

Motivational Survey
At Dogma, I created a team motivational survey that we put out regularly to team. It may be on its own or I pull some of these questions and add them to other surveys we send out. It is an optional survey, but we encourage team members to take the short time to fill it out.  We have a good response from these and we make sure to reward team members 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 we jackpot reward them or as part of our structured 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 willingness to do more of these surveys 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 are some employee perks you would like to see implemented?
  8. What are some skills you are interested in developing or classes you would like to take?
  9. What would you like to be doing in 5 years?
  10. 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. This helps me ensure my team are fulfilled, enjoy the people and environment that they work in and provide rewards that motivate them. 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. At Dogma, we want individuals who are looking for more than just a job, so this highlights those team members that are looking for more than a 9-5. 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 mind when discussing employee motivation. 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 and providing exceptional perks is ideal. Bonuses are a great way to acknowledge good performance and initiative. 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. However, a cash bonus can be an excellent way to motivate/reward your team.

You may be surprised to know that this tends to be the item that motivates employees the most and the one that the most employees report that they receive 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 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. Some of our team members are motivated by their love of social events and enjoy anything that fosters team-building that allows them to spend more time with their team mates. Aim to 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. I also reward these team members with lunches out and with different ways we can socialize outside of the work environment to get to know each other better. Remember that not everyone enjoys large social events, so ensure these are voluntary and team can choose to not attend with no judgement or pressure.

Som 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. 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. Give them special projects, let them trial any new ideas they may have and be sure to reward their drive.

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 and are motivated by working for a company making a difference. By not taking part in 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. Ask them what causes they support and provide them avenues to raise awareness, funds, or develop special projects to promote organizations they support.

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 cost+, including options for pet 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. Often, as a special thank you to team members who are showing great initiative, I work with them personally and their dogs to help them overcome any challenges and progress their learning/skills.

Personal and Professional Development
Continuing education is important in our business and it also acts as a big reward. We keep our library of books and videos stocked, regularly provide learning opportunities, enrol them in seminars, send them to conferences, bring in speakers and more. And it does not have to be related to their professional skills. I’ve provided access to personal development workshops and programs. I’ve also helped with personal skills such as sending a previous employee to language classes. Some of these may be a part of their advancement with in the company or offered as a thank you for their work.

The Little Things
Don’t forget the little things. Like the pleases and the thank you’s. Ask your team how things are and go past the basic, “how are you?”. Remember and acknowledge 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 are celebrating big 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!