How can I maintain team morale while cutting costs?

I’ve always been pro-active in motivating staff by making them feel valued. We throw regular parties, subsidise sports teams, back employees to raise money for charity and try and make it a fun place to work. I think we get the money back through having a motivated and dedicated workforce, but my FD is becoming increasingly worried by the rising costs of supporting such activities, especially as we grow in numbers. How do I strike a balance without looking like I’m pulling the fun?


A. Jonathan Fitchew of Pareto Law writes:

FDs are paid to worry, so he’s doing his job and that’s fine – no matter how much the staff enjoy working at your company, if you’re not making a profit, the fun will be short-lived. However, I find the activities that staff appreciate the most tend not to be lavish but instead involve personal commitment from the directors.

So, set up some regular events and make sure you throw yourself into them with gusto. Which events should you undertake? Listen to your staff. They tend to know what motivates them best and will act responsibly if you offer them some scope to use their own judgement. We have a regular ‘tapas and tenpin bowling’ night that runs at less than £20 a head. The key point is that the staff see you giving up your personal time and not just trying to throw money at the challenge of motivating a team.

At Pareto some of our most memorable motivation generators are completely free. Our ‘strip cold calling’ days are now legendary. The staff thought it would be fun take off an item of clothing every time they got a knock back on the phone. Not sure they appreciated my M&S Y-Fronts, but that was the deal!

On the good causes front, you cannot underestimate the goodwill generated by supporting a charity that your staff feel strongly about. The key is to agree at the start a limited number of charities that you wish to help. Make sure everyone buys into this. By participating in fun runs for example, staff are reinforcing their team identity and helping charity at the same time.

Finally, create a business case. If your FD doesn’t see the point, get him involved in the activities. You never know he may even crack a smile! Work together to develop some cost/benefit analysis and always try to link any motivational events to high performance. If your staff are rewarded for reaching targets, this will not only enhance team work within your business, but will also improve your bottom line.

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