Motivating and retaining key staff

When you want to keep your best people

Your employees are one of your most valuable assets and if they’re motivated they are more likely to stay with you and contribute to the business in the long term. Holding on to your key staff strengthens your business and lowers the costs of recruitment and training. Our guide looks at how you can encourage your staff, how to give feedback and, how to reward them.


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 Motivation – why it matters

Motivation is about inspiring your staff through the right mix of guidance, direction, resources and rewards so that they’re eager to work together in the way you want.

Each employee is an individual with their own personal concerns, goals and needs – both financial and non-financial.

If you can develop an understanding of your employees you’ll be better able to help them meet their needs through their work, and motivate them to work more effectively.

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 The importance of retaining staff

Finding good employees can be time-consuming, taking you away from the day-to-day running of your business. Replacing a key member of your team usually involves placing ads or using agencies that can be expensive, and spending time to review their CVs and conduct interviews.

Once you’ve found the right candidate you, and other employees, will need to spend time training them in their new role and developing their potential. You may not know if you’ve made the right choice for several months.

So your employees are a valuable commodity. By motivating them well and trying to meet their needs as well as your own, you can avoid the negative effects of employee losses and further recruitment.

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 Working together

For your business to be really successful it’s vital that your managers and staff work well together and that different areas of the business work together too. A feeling of “us and them” will lead to your staff taking less responsibility, feeling excluded from decisions and being less inclined to work productively. 

Here are some ideas to make sure everyone feels valued and involved:

  • Keep your whole team informed about the business and its progress.
  • Talk to them about major changes and decisions before they happen or even consult their views.
  • Communicate key decisions clearly and promptly.
  • Provide a comfortable and safe working environment and the right equipment for people to do their job.
  • Give your staff training to do their job well and develop further in the future.
  • Foster a spirit of teamwork throughout the business.
  • Encourage people to ask for help or training when they need it.
  • Take a personal interest in each individual employee.
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 Agreeing employee goals

Let your staff know what you are aiming for and why you want to do it, so that they feel valued and a part of the team. Break your business plan down into specific goals for your individual employees to work towards.

The goals that you set for your staff should be:

  • In-line with the needs of your business as a whole.
  • Ones that they are able to influence with their work and actions.
  • Measurable so you can see whether they’ve been achieved.
  • Linked to rewards that the individual employee values – see below.


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 Rewarding your employees

To motivate your employees effectively, you need to identify and offer rewards they will value.

Each employee may respond differently to different rewards. There are a  variety of rewards, some financial, some non-financial, that may help to motivate across your team, including:

  • Salaries, bonuses and commissions.
  • Pensions.
  • Medical benefits.
  • Training courses.
  • Flexible working opportunities.
  • Holiday days.
  • Team-building events.
  • Opportunities for advancement or more varied work.

Salary is often one of the key drivers. It can include fixed or basic elements as well as variable elements like commissions or bonuses linked to specific targets and results.

Your company salary levels send a key message to individuals. Employees can be very sensitive about different salary levels within your business and within other similar companies.

However, not everyone is motivated by money alone. They may also feel rewarded by the results they achieve, the goals they reach, opportunities to progress, their working environment and their friendships with colleagues. By using a mix of motivational drivers you can develop an efficient reward structure.

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 Constructive feedback

Regular reviews are an essential tool in motivating your staff to work well and feel part of the team. These can be both formal (such as an annual review) and informal through day-to-day feedback.

A successful employee should know what they are doing well and what they could do better. Most people make their own assessments of their performance but they need your input too for the full picture. It should be a two-way process with your employees receiving your feedback and giving you theirs. 

When you give feedback, try to improve employee and business performance:

  • Set aside enough time for it and place sufficient importance on it.
  • Do your research and have something to say that is specific to each person (whether positive or not).
  • Set new goals or reset old goals that are specific and measurable.
  • Be genuinely interested in the performance of the employee.
  • Praise good performance and suggest constructive ways to improve any weaker areas.
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