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5 Strategies that Companies Like Disney and Google Use to Motivate Their Employees

You want your business to run like clockwork. Keeping your team inspired can help you do that and more. Discover creative ways to motivate your staff from these 5 famous companies.

Worker drones are easy to find. If you just want a body to show up and go through the motions, there’s no shortage of employees out there. 

But you want your team to feel engaged with what they do. 

According to The Conference Board, a non-profit research group, employee disengagement costs the U.S. economy between $450 and $500 billion annually. At the individual level, that could mean upwards of $3,400 per year for every $10,000 of salary.

Workforce disengagement can also mean higher turnover and lower retention rates. Approximately 56% of employed individuals are actively looking for other opportunities – and money isn’t necessarily the issue.

A 5% pay increase is all that 69% of disengaged employees would need to move on from their current employer.

On the other hand, profitability goes up with highly engaged teams. According to Gallup, not only do engaged teams show 21% greater profitability, they also have a drastic reduction in absenteeism and turnover.

So, how do you get your employees to feel inspired and passionate about what they do?

Take a look at some simple techniques you can use to motivate your team. Revive your team’s passion and get ready to turn over a new leaf on productivity.

The Tips

Companies that take care of their employees will receive care in return, i.e. have employees who care about the company. It’s a cycle of benefits for everyone. Learn about these five proven motivational techniques you can use to revitalize your workplace:

#1 – Disney’s Shock and Awe

How does this mega corporation show appreciation? With their trademark combination of shock and awe!

Back in the day, when the mastermind behind Disney asked how the parks could make more money, his team delivered the answer: Open the park on Mondays and Tuesdays and entice corporate members with discounted admissions.

Disney showed his appreciation for the team’s contribution with a very special surprise. On Christmas day, all seven members of the team got a special visit. Mickey Mouse showed up on their doorsteps with an envelope containing:

  • 100 shares of Disney stock
  • 25 $1,000 bills
  • A handwritten note of encouragement from Walt

A few days later the team faced another challenge: getting people to stay late at the parks. One team member suggested invitation-only nights for graduating high school seniors. This “Grad Nites” idea worked well beyond expectations.

Weeks later, the team received another visit from Mickey Mouse. This time, the envelopes contained:

  • 25 $1,000 bills
  • Car keys for a brand-new Ferrari
  • A handwritten note of congratulations and thanks from Walt

Walt Disney recognized his team’s efforts for the company – and the more he gave, the more they gave back.

#2 – Google’s Creation of Psychological Safety

Google built its reputation on innovation. 

How do they attract and keep the best talent in the industry? 

It all starts with the environment and the company culture.

Behind every successful and innovative company is a unique culture that supports its teams. 

For Google, that means creating an environment where team members feel safe enough to take risks. They don’t have to worry about embarrassment or mockery from others when they share their ideas. Their culture revolves around maintaining a psychologically safe workplace.

Going around the table and asking for input from each team member is one way to make sure everyone engages. They encourage the team to share information and ask questions.

In such a safe environment, the team can bring up ideas that are “outside the box.” They don’t have to worry about everyone else making fun of them, because that’s not the environment Google promotes. Thanks to that, the company has no shortage of innovative ideas to keep it at the top of the game.

#3 – Dropbox’s Stretch Goals

How does Dropbox compete with other tech giants?

With over 300 million users around the world and more than 1,200 employees, coming up with motivation strategies may be difficult. But the upper management at Dropbox engages their team in a different way than other companies.

They go for “stretch goals.”

First, Dropbox uses frequent goal reviews. The engineering teams work on six-week project sprints. During this six-week period, teams are on a time crunch with projects that require a lot of planning. 

Management gives the board reports on the teams’ overall monthly objectives. This gives them the opportunity to see what works and what doesn’t, and change strategies as needed.

Working at that pace may seem like it could take a toll on the employees, but Dropbox has a solution for that. Dropbox doesn’t expect the teams to complete all of their goals. 

That’s right. 

They may have goals that shoot for the clouds, but they understand that there are limitations and time constraints. So, the expectation for the teams is only to complete 70% of them.

The remaining 30% are stretch goals. These are goals that may be difficult to complete during short-term sprints. So, the team “stretches” them out over a longer term. Not only does this make the overall goals more attainable, but it allows the team to set attainable goals within the timeline.

The teams get a readjusted goals allowance for any unforeseen events that happen, as can occur in projects. But with only six weeks to complete projects, there isn’t much room for error, at least under normal circumstances.

The engineering teams are also given different avenues to relieve stress. 

One way is through an event called HackWeek. During HackWeek, the teams’ meetings get cancelled for the week. This gives teams the time to work on other projects – whether or not they’re company-related.

#4 – John Lewis’ Empowering Word

John Lewis, the high end department store in Great Britain, believes in people. One of the ways this department store chain empowers employees is by simply not using that word. They call the staff “partners.” 

The word “partners” isn’t simply another label, though. It evokes emotion and connection. When the company calls the team members “partners,” it sends a message of shared responsibility. It says, “We’re in this together,” when it comes to the customers and company outcomes.

The company focuses on bringing partners into the conversation and involving them with solutions and decisions. Being a partner in the company is empowering and allows each partner to take personal responsibility in its success or failure. The partners know that their input makes a difference. That it helps engage them to do more in their roles.

#5 – Buzzfeed’s Unique Gift

How does BuzzFeed reward employees for hitting web traffic goals?

For the 2014 Holiday Season, each employee got a free Apple watch. 

That’s right!

With over 700 employees on staff, that’s at least $245,000 worth of thank-you gifts for reaching CEO Jonah Peretti’s goals. Some of those goals included 750 million video views and 200 million unique visitors in a month.

Of course, not all gifts need to be over the top. Your company doesn’t have to give out Ferraris or Apple watches to show its appreciation. 

What’s really important is that you take the time to pick out gifts your employees will like and use. Personalized gifts curated to your staff's every day needs and hobbies work wonders. They tell the employee who receives it, “I see you – and I appreciate all you do.”

Unlock Your Team’s Passion with the Right Gift

Giving gifts is one of the best motivational tools in your arsenal. In this instance, cash isn’t king.  Giving cash bonuses can flop. On the other hand, well-chosen meaningful gifts can help to improve productivity and inspire your team to greater heights.

BuzzFeed and Disney gave extravagant gifts of appreciation to their team members. That’s great if your company can afford it. 

But you don’t need to spend millions to show your employees you care. When you take the time to pick out a personally meaningful gift, it conveys a level of appreciation more than just money. For an extra special touch, personalize the gift to show that they’re not one-size-fits-all.

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