By Tom Castley, Managing Director, Xactly EMEA

Xactly recently undertook a survey with YouGov to identify what motivates UK salespeople. One of the key findings of the research showed that 68% of respondents prefer to be rewarded based on individual and personal needs. This figure is a little daunting for managers who want to support their team, but who just don’t have the time to sit down and pinpoint the motivators for each individual employee.

In his recent book, Game the Plan, Xactly’s CEO Christopher Cabrera explains there are five key areas of human psychology which managers can focus on to address the most critical desires of their employees:

Autonomy and Choice
Finding a way to let employees perform as individuals, while also ensuring that they are contributing to overall company success, can be a difficult balance to maintain. The best thing you can do is trust your employees, provide resources to guide behaviour, and monitor for issues outside their daily routine. Managers need to trust the work their teams have put into training and planning will pay off, and should be there to offer support should employees require guidance.

This relates strongly to the previous point – employees not only desire autonomy, they also want to earn it with competence, and to continue to perform in such a way that justifies the continued trust placed in them. But in order to feel competent, employees need to be properly and intelligently trained, in programs that are relevant and well designed. The best strategy here is to work out exactly what the key competencies are for each role and then map these to real performance metrics.

The recent ‘Progress Principal’ study found one of the key factors in employee engagement is making employees feel like they are making progress in meaningful work. In order to create meaning for employees, managers need to create an environment where they can see a connection between their work and organisational goals. Managers should provide regular feedback and recognition which reflects the individual’s contribution and empower teams to share ideas with each other.

The book ‘The Carrot Principle’ references a study of over 200,000 employees which showed that praise and accolades motivates employees above all else - even money. In order to give this regular recognition, managers need to be able to clearly and objectively measure their employees and provide them with regular feedback. Something as simple as a companywide leader board or email blast shared by all relevant team members can have a huge impact on employee engagement.

Increased Responsibility and Growth
A study by global management consulting firm Hay Group showed that many employees left roles where they felt their skills weren’t being used. Most people think long term about their careers, and they want to know that they are receiving the right training and coaching, followed up by the right challenges, to improve and progress through the ranks.

Managers should be constantly looking for gaps in this progression and then applying the right training and coaching to give employees the best chances of succeeding. To ensure that employees are always challenged with stretch goals, performance data should be carefully analysed and incentive compensation plans adjusted.

With the right approach, and just a little bit of psychology knowhow, management can develop an atmosphere in which employees are constantly growing and learning.