Home Professionalisms What You Need To Know About Motivating Your Team

What You Need To Know About Motivating Your Team


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by Chuck Cohn, CEO and founder of Varsity Tutors

There are several factors that go into creating a successful business, but certainly one of the most important is building an outstanding team. Hiring the right talent is the first step; keeping them genuinely motivated is the next.

For many leaders, this can be a difficult task. Certain statistics have shown that 52 percent of employees don’t feel engaged with their work — and this doesn’t necessarily mean the other 48 percent do feel engaged. The same report shows that only 29 percent of employees feel connected to their work and 18 percent feel unhappy and unproductive in the workplace.

So, how do you look beyond simple endeavors like “Employee of the Week” awards to truly motivate your team? Try looking toward the four drivers of motivation — to acquire, to bond, to comprehend, and to defend — to encourage people at your company to do their best work.

Team Members’ Motivational Needs

Acquire. Our brains love to acquire things: experiences, recognition, rewards, etc. When we’re not receiving those things (or someone else is getting what we feel we deserve), it can be easy to lose interest, thereby dampening our motivation.

Goldman Sachs taps into this motivator by offering personalized, nonfinancial rewards to team members who significantly contribute to the company. For example, a company might offer a staff member the choice of tickets to a concert, a sporting event, or the theater. People often value a reward more when it isn’t something that was arbitrarily picked — especially because some managers might accidentally pick rewards that say, “I don’t really know you.”

Bond. Even the most introverted of us are social beings, and we want to establish a connection with our colleagues. When we’re given the opportunity to develop strong relationships at our jobs, we’re likely more motivated to do our best work for the company.

A popular technique of startups and smaller companies is to order lunch in the office once a week. This is a great opportunity for everyone to informally get together and chat about a range of topics, from company efforts to weekend plans.

Comprehend. Most people want to be challenged by their work. Boredom can quickly set in when you are given a task that is too easy, which can then lead to a lack of motivation.

For an example of how to do this well, look to performance company Cirque du Soleil. Even with the rigorous practice schedules, high-pressure performances, and dangerous stunts, the company excels at attracting world-class performers and encouraging them to perfect their craft. It is important to show your staff that you recognize them as professionals in their field, rather than just everyday workers.
Defend. People want to feel secure in their work. Staff members who are given clearly defined goals or objectives are more likely to feel secure because they’re able to defend the specific work they accomplish.

Fortune 500 company Avnet implemented goal management software to help team members know exactly what was expected of them. Avnet saw higher engagement scores and higher branch performance because their team wasn’t guessing at what was “good enough” with their tasks. With concrete goals in place, the staff knew from the beginning what they were supposed to aim for and promptly rose to the challenge.

Putting Motivation to Work

Once you have successfully encouraged motivation in your team, it is then up to you as a leader to align those motivations with the larger company mission. This means learning team members’ goals and passions and then seeing how those goals and passions fit into the company’s overall strategy. Only then will your business be able to thrive with motivated employees.

Leaders need to learn that motivation comes from within — and it requires that staff members feel clearly instructed in their roles, well-rewarded for their successes, tightly bonded with their team, and adequately challenged to do their best work.


Chuck CohnChuck Cohn is the CEO and founder of Varsity Tutors, the leading curated marketplace for private tutors. The company operates a curated end-to-end marketplace for high-quality, in-person and online tutors, mobile learning apps, online learning environments, and other tutoring and test prep-focused technologies.


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