25 January 2015

Last week’s Employee Motivation Day got me thinking.

How do you continue to motivate a big team in an established company as it grows, and how does this compare to the ways you might approach a smaller, newer venture with fewer people?

As someone who is currently involved in both of these types of business, these questions have certainly crossed my mind.

At key moments in UKFast’s journey, we’ve always found time to take stock and reflect on where we’ve been and where we want to go. Whilst our overall purpose has remained the same throughout, we’ve had to adapt and change along the way to maintain the same dynamic spirit we had when we were very small.

The summit of Snowdon - the ultimate place for motivation

Mount Snowdon – the ultimate place for motivation

In my experience, when a business starts to accelerate, the learning curve you’ve been on suddenly starts to climb at a steeper gradient.

As the size of the company increases, you realise that what worked well for ten or twenty people might not be so effective when you reach one or two hundred employees. The momentum and energy you once had slows and this is when dynamic change is required.

I remember when UKFast was a lot smaller than we are now, and we used to take the team out of the office, knowing that fresh air and exercise, coupled with learning and sharing experiences is a huge motivator. Back then we would stay in hotels in Llandudno, demolishing a full English breakfast before setting out to climb Mount Snowdon with our packed lunches stuffed into backpacks.

In a world where we set ourselves goals that are so far in the distance, it is important to have a series of smaller goals. Climbing Mount Snowdon is one of these goals, which you can accomplish as a team, and which gives a much needed boost to people’s energy and vision.

As the team grew, the costs attached to this exercise increased too, yet we didn’t want to simply stop doing it. The energy and fresh ideas people took back to the office were too valuable. So, what was the answer?

As it happens, it turned out to be an approach that we’ve taken forward, addressing our biggest costs each year and finding ways to either neutralise them or eliminate them altogether. So when Gail found an old hotel at the side of a beautiful lake in Snowdonia National Park, it became clear: we’d buy our own training centre.

Ironically, this same formula has led to the situation I find myself in today, as we bought Le Farinet knowing that we could take the team at UKFast out there to ski, walk and share ideas in an extraordinary environment.

We’ve put an incredible team in charge of running Le Farinet, yet it’s still up to me and Gail to ensure they feel valued, inspired, and full of energy.

So, now we find ourselves looking at how to inspire the new team at Le Farinet and comparing that with the motivation needed to sustain the momentum at UKFast.

I remember reading a book called The Extra Mile that focusses on alignment and engagement. Yes, they are buzz words, but I think they’re at the heart of motivation at any level.

It explained that objective number one is to get everyone aligned with your way of thinking and then get the most engaged people into management positions. Then you can work towards getting every individual engaged. Easier said than done and it is an ongoing quest when you have hundreds of staff. But it is possible.

At UKFast, competition is a huge driver, getting people within teams challenging each other, inspiring them to step up their game and get better with every day. This kind of energy is infectious, especially if you acknowledge and praise people’s improvement and achievements.

Whatever size your business is, it’s so important to communicate your values and to thank people for their hard work. Whether you’re growing a start-up or nurturing an established but still expanding business, this will never change.

From simple things like taking your team for a beer after work or going camping, to bigger trips where people can ski or bike in the mountains, motivation is key.

Inspirational surroundings in Verbier

Inspirational surroundings in Verbier

It’s also important to create an inspiring environment for your team, no matter how big or small. If you put people in a dull cramped space and ask them to think outside of the box, how likely is it that that will happen?

The team at Le Farinet are lucky to wake up each morning to breath taking views and fresh air, whilst at UKFast we have worked hard to create a workplace with a ‘wow’ factor so that it makes people feel not just good, but great.

Ultimately, I think the key to motivating people in all walks of life and in any size of business is this feel good factor.

It’s about asking people what drives them and providing them with relentless opportunities. It’s about empowering great leaders to motivate from within the business, and it’s about that feel good factor; telling people – or showing them – that they are valued.

There are always new ways to motivate your team and I am always learning, so if you have any ideas or suggestions, share away. I’d love to hear your thoughts.

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