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The Top Three Motivators for Any Generation

Updated: Dec 10, 2019

Originally published on ICMI Blog

Does your contact center resemble an episode of "The Walking Dead?" Whether or not you've reached zombie apocalypse levels of engagement, all customer service leaders must be intentional to win the hearts and minds of our staff. The "why" behind our efforts will ultimately determine the quality and consistency of work. Do you know the absolute best ways to motivate your employees? As Leslie O'Flahavan addresses in her recent post, it has nothing at all to do with pizza or gift cards. Based on insights from "Primed to Perform" by Lindsay McGregor and Neel Doshi, this article will reveal the top three motivators known to humankind!

PLAY - There are many wonderful employee engagement techniques, but one rises above the rest. Do your employees have a sense of curiosity and excitement about their work? If yes, they will outperform the typical agent by a dramatic margin. The number one motivator is play. Surprising right? There is undeniable science behind the "gamification" movement that deserves our attention. When employees perform work simply because they enjoy it, there is no greater engagement lever in the world.

Even so, wait just a minute before adding that foosball table to your Amazon cart. The type of meaningful play we are describing is more than just a comedic distraction (nerf guns, shuffleboard, hot tubs, etc.) These fun things can be great peripheral culture builders….however, they are far from the core. The real magic happens when you transform actual day-to-day work activities into play. There are so many fantastic examples of this, including:

  • Allowing your employees to experiment with new technologies your organization is developing

  • Working on a SWAT team to solve advanced "missions" for a VIP customer

  • Participating in a "fellowship of knowledge" charted with improving self-service channels

  • Gaining recognition as an "ambassador" for another department to collaborate on a cross-functional project

This will require a bit of creativity, but injecting positive enthusiasm into your daily work culture can change everything. Gamification (using game mechanics to drive agents toward high-value behaviors) is one additional technique that can be used to design meaningful play at work. It can take the form of high-tech (typically software) or low-tech strategies. The best game designs will leverage both in tandem. Whether you call it gamification, employee engagement, or drinking the Kool-Aid, the objective is the same - to make the day-to-day work of the contact center exciting. To learn more about designing a gamification strategy, I highly suggest following Monica Cornetti. Also, do not hesitate to reach out to me for a brainstorm. (I love brainstorms!)

While play is the ultimate motivator, we cannot live on excitement alone. Purpose and potential also play a critical role in your employee engagement strategy.

PURPOSE - When you understand and value the impact your work is having, you are far more inclined to do it well. The sad reality is that two-thirds of employees have no idea what makes their organization unique. We as leaders often fail to embed purpose into the lives of our agents. Your company does something no one else can do. Use this power of distinction to your advantage!

The act of helping customers is a fulfilling purpose, but only if the gap between the agent and the customer is minimal. When we know our customers intimately enough to celebrate their successes and can share in their pain, human nature will propel us to serve well. Unfortunately, what often happens is bad processes, laborious tools, meaningless repetition, and other barriers separate the agent from simply being helpful. By reducing these "soul-sucking" elements and tapping into the intrinsic motivator of purpose, we bring the human element back into our work.

POTENTIAL - When work aligns with an employee's dreams and ambitions, it adds a full new layer of motivation. A great leader works to reveal the dormant potential inside his or her employees. Not everyone's definition of "success" looks the same. Career paths must be customized on a regular basis to fit the evolution of a person. It is essential to have milestones of advancement built both inside and outside of the contact center. Is there a clear path on how a new agent can move from frontline staff to more senior-level positions? For those with ambitions outside of the contact center, are there opportunities to collaborate on cross-functional projects and to learn new skills? Great employees are far more likely to remain loyal to an organization if they are being challenged in ways that bring them closer to their long-term goals.

There you have it…the world's top three motivators of all time! Be sure to pick up "Primed To Perform" for much more including how to establish a "TOMO" or total motivation score for your contact center. This metric will not only provide insight into how well you are doing in the areas of play, purpose, and potential, but will also reveal the presence of three negative motivators: emotional pressure, financial pressure, and inertia. I've included the infographic below as a summary of these tools. Happy motivating!!


Nate Brown is the Co-founder of CX Accelerator. While Customer Service is his primary expertise, Nate is able to leverage experience in professional services, marketing, and sales to connect dots and solve the big problems. From authoring and leading a Customer Experience program, to journey mapping, to managing a complex contact center, Nate is always learning new things and sharing with the CX community. Twitter - @CustomerIsFirst LinkedIn - Nate Brown

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