To motivate staff, encourage them to seek a higher purpose in work and life

It’s up to management to inspire that higher aspiration, to connect employees with the value of their work

PUBLISHED : Friday, 18 December, 2015, 12:19pm
UPDATED : Friday, 18 December, 2015, 12:19pm

If you want to motivate staff, get them to think about the “higher purpose”.

In some industries this is more obvious than others. In insurance, the industry I work in, I see it among executives who genuinely care about ensuring peoples’ futures are secure with regards to savings, health and retirement.

Among the business and technology experts I work with, I see it when staff are inspired about digital transformations such as connecting wearable devices to health insurers and working with peer-to-peer payments providers who are reducing costs for remittances.

The connection to a higher purpose is of course even more obvious for doctors, nurses and teachers. But trying to motivate staff to think about a higher purpose can apply to most businesses. The line worker on a manufacturing floor isn’t just piling widgets but rather part of a bigger effort to make a product that may make a customer’s life easier. Employees should also be motivated to work towards making their own company run more smoothly. When workers lose sight of their connectivity and involvement in the bigger picture they lose sight of their importance, and in due course can lose incentive.

It’s a perfect time to remind managers about the value of giving to the community

It’s up to management to inspire that higher aspiration, to connect employees with the value of their work. When people feel they are providing a service to society, their customers and community, they are more inclined to step up and care about cost-controls, quality and innovation. It becomes a positive reinforcing cycle.

As it’s the holiday season, it’s a perfect time to remind managers about the value of giving to the community. This is an excellent way for leaders to inspire staff. Charity runs and hikes are popular choices in Hong Kong, along with beach clean-ups, food and blood drives, and educational-support programmes. You can also try to select projects that connect back to your business.

For example, last week Accenture teamed up with to support global participation in Hour of Code, one of the world’s largest educational events, designed to prove anyone, especially young people, can learn the basics of coding, have fun doing it, then continue learning beyond one hour. The South China Morning Post has been partnering with RTHK since 1988 to organise Operation Santa Claus, which is one of the largest charitable donation drives in Hong Kong – giving back to the community that follows their media. In that time it has raised more than HK$230 million for over 214 charitable projects. All of these efforts serve multiple purposes beyond the obvious charity: they develop stronger bonds among colleagues and engender positive feelings about corporate commitment to communities.

This only works if you, as a leader, are authentic. When leadership development focuses on the whole person and helps individuals uncover their motivational drivers by linking them to service-based activities and a leadership development strategy, it helps everyone grow and develop a company greater than themselves.

May Knight is managing director for Accenture Financial Services Asia Pacific and a member of its APAC leadership team