What inspires your staff? What keeps them working for you with enthusiasm and energy, pushing towards that bottom line? What makes a self-motivated workforce that's innovative and creative? What will make people stay with a company and help it grow?
It seems there's no easy answer to these questions. It's not something you can do with a couple of staff fun days or HR exercises, and it can't be easily manipulated.
Inspiring your staff takes time, effort and consistency. It's about creating a culture that inspires self-motivation as well as providing the security to develop and innovate.
Yes, a good salary, benefits package and training opportunities can certainly contribute towards a productive workforce, but that's not going to turn your staff into an inspired team or make them stay with you in the long term.
Creating a motivated workforce is less about monetary rewards and more to do with management styles.
While there is no easy fix, there are plenty of ways to begin creating the right culture. Trust and belief in your staff is crucial, as is letting go and trusting that your employees have the ability to do their jobs.
Consistency is important, too. If you want to be an inspiration to your staff, exemplify what you want from others.
More than any other factor, communication is essential for creating a motivated culture. Put in a system of regular staff appraisals and articulate clearly what the objectives of the business are.
People need to know how they contribute to the company and how they make a difference.
Staff also need to feel that their opinions and suggestions are valued. Simply asking employees to suggest innovations that might make their working lives easier might throw up some interesting requests, while also ensuring they feel consulted and cared for.
Seven steps to creating an inspirational culture
1 Trust and let go Believe in people's abilities and let them do their jobs. Allow them a level of autonomy that is appropriate for their role, motivation and expertise.
2 Be an example Be consistent, keep appointments and, if things go wrong, keep it to yourself and deal with it. Exemplify the behaviour you would like to see in others, and act in line with your values.
3 Allow mistakes to be made Promote innovation by allowing your staff to make mistakes without retribution. As Jack Welch, CEO of General Electric, said: "It's not about what went wrong, but how we get it right the next time."
4 Measure output, not input Look at the results, not always at how they were achieved. People may have completely different styles but still reach the same goals.
5 Communicate Talk to your staff regularly about their needs and your needs, and set up a system of regular appraisals. Articulate what the business's objective is and how people fit in with it. People need to feel they are contributing to something important.
6 Treat people as individuals Regularly appraise your staff's performance. Find out what they want and what makes them tick. There are systems which can do this, or get your teams to do what you do at the top.
7 Celebrate success Always celebrate success and significant achievements, or just remember to say thank you. It's easy to forget to say it in the midst of a busy day, but it does reinforce the fact that each employee matters. For many people, genuine praise is more important than financial rewards.