Employee motivation is a term used to describe how willing staff are to work. So it’s no surprise that a motivated workforce delivers better performance for organisations in terms of efficiency, productivity and profitability. At PPMA Total Show 2018, Lord Mark Price quoted Harvard University research which shows that motivated staff deliver:

  • 20% more profit
  • 20% higher productivity
  • 40% lower wastage
  • 134% increase in earnings per share



Lord Price also drew on his experience at the helm of John Lewis and Waitrose to stress the importance of staff engagement:

“If you look after your people, if you make sure they’re engaged and happy at, if they care about the place they work in, ultimately you get better results. They’ll give better service and customers stay more loyal for longer.”

How do you motivate staff?

Modern management thinking places huge importance on staff motivation and engagement, taking full account of the emotional aspects of work. Staff are willing to do their best at work when they care about what they’re doing and when they feel good about their role in the business. Virgin’s Richard Branson is in no doubt that it’s essential to put staff first:

“If you treat your staff well, they will be happy. Happy staff are proud staff, and proud staff deliver excellent customer service, which drives business success.” Sheryl Sandberg, Facebook COO echoes the same thought, but further stresses the emotional nature of motivation:

“Sharing emotions builds deeper relationships. Motivation comes from working on things we care about.”

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Motivated staff increase productivity and competitiveness

As the competitive landscape changes after Brexit, the importance of motivated and engaged employees will keep on growing. The challenges ahead mean that finding ways of being more productive and efficient are vital, and it is by addressing staff issues that businesses can achieve long-term success on the world stage.

  • Global competition means it will be vital to be more efficient

Membership of the EU has meant UK businesses have only had to deal with competition from EU companies. Post-Brexit the competition is likely to be global, and include machinery and services from countries with lower wages and infrastructure costs. To compete, businesses need to achieve greater efficiency and productivity, and they will need highly motivated staff to do so.

  • We need investment in technology and equipment

In the longer term, technology and improved equipment reduce the cost of doing business. Businesses need to invest to stay competitive, and employees become more engaged when they have the right equipment to do their jobs.

  • We need investment in innovation

It will be more important than ever to embrace new ideas, including insights from employees. Doing so creates an environment where people can see their ideas come to fruition, see the positive benefits of change, and feel they are an important part of the business.

  • We need investment in intellectual property and exclusivity

In a more competitive world, the importance of holding onto and developing exclusive ideas and know-how becomes more important. The businesses which will do best are those with unique capabilities or USPs. Those will always depend on having staff fully trained and engaged with everything that makes a business stand out from those around it.

How to engage and motivate staff

At the PPMA Show, Lord Price went on to highlight that for millennials, staff engagement and motivation is even more important than for earlier generations. But what steps do businesses need to take to engage and motivate staff?

  • Reward and recognise staff

It is essential to acknowledge great performance by individual staff and teams. Recognition needs to be public and on top of the ‘feel good’ factor it generates, there should be tangible reward. In the words of Apple’s Steve Jobs, rewards are about ‘Getting some booty’.

  • Share information throughout the business

Everyone in the business needs to know where the business is heading and what it’s priorities are. Doing so helps to create the unity of purpose John F. Kennedy famously encountered in 1962 when he asked a caretaker what he did at NASA. The answer? “Helping to put a man on the moon”.

  • Empower people

It’s so important to believe in your employees. Give them broad enough boundaries, and let them make sensible, well-informed decisions. Don’t come down hard on failure, but make sure everyone learns when things go wrong.

  • Look after your workforce

Everyone deserves to work in a safe, comfortable environment where they can be fully productive. Businesses need to recognise the demands of life outside of the workplace and to foster a culture of looking after the interests of all employees.

  • Help staff feel their job is worthwhile

Good businesses do good things for customers. If they don’t, customers fall away and the business fails. Great customer experiences should be shared throughout the organisation, and if there are any bad experiences, staff need to know about how things are put right, and to play an active role in doing so. Corporate giving and philanthropy helps too, like Salesforce’s 1-1-1 model which pledges 1% of its products, 1% of its equity and 1% of employee’s time to philanthropic projects.

  • Maximise job satisfaction through respect and career development

Respect for staff is fundamental to staff motivation, and behaviours in the workplace need to follow company standards. That includes listening to employees, and fostering a culture where they can speak freely. Staff also become more motivated and engaged if there is a clear development track ahead of them, including relevant training.

“Learn to look after your staff first and the rest will follow.”

- Richard Branson, Founder, Virgin Group



Find out more about PPMA training and apprenticeship initiatives and see highlights of 2018-2019 programme.

See also this TED Talk on What motivates us at work? More than money and Harvard Business Review’s The Importance of Employee Engagement on Performance.