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Thought leadership

Launched by Argos for Business, Employee Motivation Day aims to inspire passion and appreciation across the country’s workforce. I applaud this initiative.

Put in its simplest form, a business is a competition. You have competitors and you compete to win the same customers. In my experience, a lot of this comes down to the service you provide, as people can easily switch to another company if you let them down. So, as a business owner, it’s really important to motivate your employees. After all, they are the ones looking after your customers. Motivation is one of a business owner’s biggest assets.

However, it’s not enough to simply go through the motions. If you want to break all boundaries, the secret is in how you inspire your team.  A bunch of highly motivated people will always outperform a much larger group who are disengaged, so it pays to motivate. But motivation isn’t pay. It is not enough to simply pay people a salary to turn up, because turn up they will – and then switch off.

Jim Collins writes in his books ‘Good to Great’ and ‘Built to Last’ that he discounted motivating people through pay as one of the hallmarks of a great business. Why? Well, some of the businesses who performed badly actually paid very well; therefore it wasn’t one of the key distinguishing features.

Motivation is about enjoyment and challenge; it’s about seeing the fruits of your labour immediately. When you turn work into a game, it becomes engaging. This is why competition is such a great way to engage and inspire people. It’s also why, if you look around our offices, you’ll see areas that encourage it; from the onsite gym to the giant chess set in reception.

Competition is what drives everybody forwards. Have you ever been in the gym, on the rowing machine or treadmill, and found yourself in an unspoken competition with the person next to you, trying to keep pace with them when they go faster? It makes you test yourself and it engages you. Why should the workplace be any different?

At UKFast, we use healthy competition to motivate people. The technical engineers, for example, take part in the ‘tech top ten’, which is based on the level of customer service they provide. We work this out using an algorithm, factoring in things like the amount of time spent talking to customers, the speed queries are resolved and the tone of voice and friendliness of the engineer.

When we have our company-wide Monday Morning Meeting each week, we announce who’s sitting where in the top ten so everyone can see who’s beating who; who’s gained points on last week, and who’s emerging into the top ten list for the first time. There are prizes for the top three each month, but at the end of the year, the top ten performers get a substantial reward. We sent the last group of winners out to Las Vegas to celebrate their achievement – along with a couple of engineers who hadn’t made the top ten, but who had shown significant improvement over the year.

What’s surprising, however, is that – despite the prize at the end – what most of the team enjoy is the competition itself; the banter and the thrill of the chase. For us as a business, it’s amazing because what this competition means is that our customers are getting the best service. It helps to recruit people who are passionate and dynamic because these kinds of people are naturally self-motivated, but ultimately, I believe that everybody has within them the desire to be the best at what they do. It’s our job as business owners to support them in that, whether that’s by helping them to gain further industry accreditation, providing them with training or creating an inspirational environment that’s going to set them up for success.

People feel demotivated when they feel like they aren’t progressing or developing. So, by adding in a layer of competition and giving people targets to aim at, you’re making sure that they are always motivated. This is great not only for your employees and their wellbeing, but for customers too.

Lawrence Jones is Founder and CEO at UKFast

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