Inspiration on a Budget

By Head of IRP and Qualifications; Richard Charnock.

A little while ago I was asked to take part in a webinar for REC and IRP members. The key theme that kept coming forward was the desire to recognise and reward staff for hard work with methods other than commission. I think that many of the commission structures used in the industry are great and serve their purpose. But what is the purpose of incentives and rewards? To say well done, drive the right behaviours or a bit of both?


If a staff member is driven purely by monetary reward, will they chase the deal at the expense of everything else or will they feel a failure if they miss the target? I think there are many things we can do to inspire staff other than or in conjunction with commissions.

The main tool that I have used in thinking through inspirational schemes is understanding; knowing your team and the individuals in your team is paramount to deciding on the incentive that should be used. Some staff may be motivated by many things such as; money, loyalty and some by praise and the feeling of belonging, but what are yours? Some teams are frankly too big to know everyone, although I once had a boss with over 800 staff who knew everyone’s name and the names of the spouses, she knew their staff better than their team leaders. What an amazing boss, just talking with her and the interest she showed in us all was inspiring in itself.

I think her secret was to be consistent, show praise when it is due, for success as well as failure, reward when they could, make people feel special but above all, build trust.WORK-HARD-QUOTE

If we look at these qualities in isolation they seem small pieces to the jigsaw and nothing significant let alone inspirational, but use them all together and they become very poignant and powerful.

  • It is vital to have consistent boundaries for staff to work within. They understand how far they can go as well as what discounts and added value they can give. It helps them have the confidence and security to know how their manager and company will react to their decisions. Not a bad start.
  • Let’s re-enforce these boundaries with praise, both for a job well done but bizarrely I have seen praise for failure. Just the act of trying sometimes deserves praise, even if the activity didn’t work out, it’s often the learning process or the way the staff member reacted to the failure that is more valuable than if the activity had gone well.
  • Reward when you can, rewards are normally expensive, but don’t have to be. They could easily be for an idea that gives a saving and therefore helps the bottom line, as much as a sales success which we normally reward through commission. We are getting feedback that the industry is looking for more inventive and interesting ways to reward, what do you do?
  • Making people feel special is a real art; we can’t all master it all the time, but our industry being a people industry should be better at it than most other industries. It’s a personal thing, but I’ve always found that listening and then following up on ideas is a good starting point. Just don’t allow those interruptions to distract you from the person in front of you, after all they are the ones trying to put an idea or convince their boss, the least we can do is give them our undivided attention.
  • Lastly, trust, it’s the most difficult part. If you want your staff to take up your vision and use the inspiration you is trying to give them, how about trusting them? Yes it means letting the reigns go, but isn’t the person you have employed there because you think they can do the job? Let them do it and trust them. Some articles will call it empowerment and decentralisation etc. but what it really is, is trust.

The boss I mentioned earlier once said to me “the people that work with you are often mirrors of the way you treat them, trust them and you’ll be rewarded with trust and loyalty, praise them and they will strive harder but give them the parameters and they won’t break them”. But then again, this was the same boss that always reminded us that “people do what you inspect, not what you expect”.  Just a thought!


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