8 HR tips to motivate staff

The context of the pandemic has taken a lasting toll on the mental health of staff. The expansion of working from home and anxiety linked to the health context have a harmful effect on staff morale. In March 2021, study found 20% of people said they were suffering from depression. A condition they find it hard to share with their employer. Only 15% of them said they would dare mention a health issue or a worry linked to their well-being with their manager or boss, and only 9% would inform the HR department. (source)

In this context, Human Resources are in the front line! HR management must find a way to revitalise teams and (re)boost employee morale. 

We asked Mathilde Salobir, HR Director at Sport Heroes, to give us some tips about (re)motivating staff. But beforehand, we will take a closer look at Maslow's hierarchy of needs, as applied to the world of work: because to understand how to motivate staff, you have to know their needs!

How can we identify the motivational levers at work?


Have you heard of Maslow's hierarchy of needs? 

It shows levels of needs in the shape of a pyramid. It is an interpretation of the theory of motivation developed by the psychologist Abraham Maslow, who applied it to all individuals. 

Maslow's hierarchy of needs is also applicable to the world of work. It is a way to better understand employees' needs and to identify potential ways to boost commitment, loyalty and motivation

pyramid maslow engagement

Staff's needs can be organised into five main categories: 

  • Physiological needs: the work they do in the company means staff can obtain a decent salary and enjoy a reasonable standard of living.
  • Safety needs: they are linked to working conditions. They include job security, in particular, which helps to reduce stress and guarantee a degree of stability. 
  • Social needs or love and belonging: these needs involve the social relations linked to work, which help staff to feel they belong to a group or a community. 
  • Needs for esteem: staff aspire to be recognised, valued and appreciated for the work they do. 
  • Needs for self-actualisation: when all the other needs are met, staff are fully satisfied and motivated. They can focus on their personal and professional development, and flourish in their work to the full. 

For each need, HR levers can be used to engage staff! Have you already identified them? Well done :)


How to (re)motivate staff? 5 tips from Mathilde Salobir, HR Director at Sport Heroes


You can see that the company can (and must) act at all levels of the pyramid to guarantee staff commitment and motivation over the long term. We asked Mathilde Salobir, HR Director at Sport Heroes, to give us her tips for motivating staff on a daily basis. 


Tip #1 Unite the teams around a shared project


By setting shared goals, you encourage collaboration and stimulate staff through the power of the group. These challenges are very often directly linked to the company and its performance. At Sport Heroes, for example, the management team sets shared goals (such as “reaching such and such a percentage of use of our applications”) to all members of staff, whatever their job: “The fact of having a goal of this kind helps staff to project into the long-term future. So it boosts motivation and loyalty, it's incredibly important”. This work carried out each quarter helps give employees more visibility over the short term.


The first tip I'd give to an HR manager seeking to restore links and remotivate teams when morale is low, would be to unite them around a shared project. A professional project or even a personal project!

Mathilde Salobir

HR Director at Sport Heroes


But one can also focus on other kinds of aims to develop the community and establish a positive atmosphere in the company! "We can all gives ourselves a challenge by setting more personal, more fun goals. Such as saying we will aim to have 10 participants at the next half-marathon.” Because, yes, at Sport Heroes, we love… sport, of course. So the Human Resources team also makes use of this lever to create regular team-building experiences. 

❓ Which needs does it meet? Social needs! The third level of Maslow's hierarchy of needs.

These more fun and unifying events work very well: "In the short term, they help to restructure the teams and give them a new boost! If we organise a big sports challenge on a Thursday, we can see that the teams are more motivated on Monday. And the effects are also felt on the following days." Staff want to go out of their way to reach this goal. Even if it is not linked to their job, it is stimulating since it is a group project. 


Tip #2 Regularly take the pulse of staff 


Each quarter, the Human Resources team at Sport Heroes takes the pulse of staff and analyses changes to their morale and commitment. How are things? Are they motivated? Are they confident in the company's future? Are they made to feel worthwhile? Are they happy with their work/life balance? 


When we regularly ask staff for feedback about their morale and their commitment, they will see that it is important to us, to us as HR managers, but also to the management in general, to know how they really feel and to take the actions required as a result.

Mathilde Salobir

HR Director at Sport Heroes


We ask 12 questions every three months to gauge the commitment of staff and to identify the early warning signs of disengagement. "Afterwards, a debriefing should be held with the manager of each team, and the HR team should prepare the actions it decides to carry out. It is a positive message to send to staff: they have the chance to speak, we listen and act on what they say. And it is a very good indicator of health of a company".

❓Which needs does it meet? Two for the price of one: by asking staff for feedback, you reassure them and guarantee a healthy work environment (need for security) and you make them feel they are part of the company community (social needs). 


Tip #3 Boost staff's sense of worth  


Financial compensation is not enough. To make sure co-workers feel recognised, you need to boost their self-esteem! A feeling of being worthwhile is the key for co-workers to stay motivated. You can get them to work on a subject they master well to show off their skills or ask them to present a project to all the company to highlight the work they have done”.

❓Which needs does it meet? Easy! Here the aim is to boost self-esteem. 

The culture of feedback should be seen at all levels of the company and be applied both to group meetings and to one-on-one interviews. “Managers are the main ones involved in giving recognition, hence the importance of supporting them and continually training them on this kind of theme”

At Sport Heroes, the HR teams have set up a number of "rituals" aiming to highlight and recognise work of staff: 

  • Every month, Sport Heroes organises “Share Your Success”: an informal event during which staff present the projects they are particularly proud of!
  • Every year, when it is time for individual interviews, staff are asked to give the names of colleagues they would like to have feedback from (anonymously or otherwise). 


Tip #4 Count on the company culture and "rituals"


Rituals are part and parcel of a company's culture. They are events everyone knows about and looks forward to. “The idea of rituals is very important in a company: it reassures staff, it gives them a framework. They know where they are going and what is expected of them."

At Sport Heroes, many regular events have been turned into rituals! They are important for forging the team. This is the case of Newsweek, for example, a 30-minute meeting on Tuesday mornings to discuss company news: “It's only 30 minutes, but it sets the tone for the week! Everyone looks forward to Newsweek, we get together with all the teams at the same time, so they all have the same amount of information

❓Which needs does it meet? Here, we are talking about social needs (or the need to belong to the group).

While the company culture is vital to motivate and engage staff, it has also become essential for potential future employees: “It is an important element in recruitment: candidates ask us more and more questions about our values, our culture and our mission. The generation arriving on the job market is more demanding and more attentive to these issues: “We have more and more candidates who apply not because the job interests them, but because they are attracted by the mission. It's very powerful."

Organize a Safety Day: why and how?

Tip #5 Protect mental health and the life-work balance


A poor life-work balance can lead to a burnout and to staff losing commitment. The HR department needs to make sure that the right balance is maintained

To do so, it can make use of flexibility: providing flexibility is a great way to foster a good life-work balance”. Allowing staff to work from home several days a week means providing them with a more fulfilling professional framework. But this flexibility is not only applicable to working from home: “At Sport Heroes, our company culture is not to keep track of working time. We can, for example, take a long lunch break a few days a week to do some sport. Everyone sees this as something natural!"

And what about staff working from home full-time (full remote)? This is an extra challenge for HR departments: “Disconnecting is a very big issue for full-remote staff. It is harder for them to disconnect. We need to be particularly attentive to these employees and to listen when they raise the alert."

To deal with issues of mental health, which have become crucial during the pandemic, we can call in specialists on the question. Sport Heroes, for example, has partnered with MindDay: “It is a rare and striking commitment from the company: it illustrates our values.”

❓ What needs are being met? You guessed it right? It is indeed the needs of security: the company ensures the good mental health of its employees.


Tip #6 Management is involved in daily life and is close to teams


To motivate the teams, the company can rely on (and even must rely on) its managers. They embody the company's values and are sources of inspiration for staff on a daily basis. “At Sport Heroes, we are lucky to have managers who are incredibly inspiring, both in terms of work and of sport, and who are always close to their teams. We can go and play football at lunchtime with our CEO or go jogging with the team managers. And all in a totally natural way!" 

Times to exchange can be set aside to break down partitions and encourage discussion between all members of the company.  “It fosters proximity, sends out a good message to the teams and shows a willingness to be transparent. Every week at Sport Heroes, we organise the Thursday Café: Paul-Émile Saab (CEO - Sport Heroes) takes the time to answer questions from all the invited staff. It's a more informal occasion than our other meetings. And it also means staff who don't work together can talk and get to know each other better." 

❓Which needs does it meet? Once again, social needs / needs for love and belonging.


Tip #7 Support career development


To motivate staff over the long term, it is important to help them project into the future and develop. And sometimes even to support them towards a change in career.

Mathilde Salobir

HR Director at Sport Heroes


HR teams have several tools at their disposal to promote professional development (and to engage employees in the process). First of all, to listen to others: are co-workers flourishing at work? Do they have other aspirations? Next, to set up a training plan: to stimulate staff and give them the chance to learn more and to develop. Another solution, chosen by Sport Heroes in particular, is to develop “career paths”: “this is a way to give staff visibility, to provide them with a framework and to help them project into the future and anticipate changes in their career”.

❓Which needs does it meet? We have now arrived at the last stage of the pyramid: the needs for self-actualisation.


Tip #8 The essential seminar

It's not very original, but it shouldn't be brushed aside.

If you sense that your teams are a bit demoralised or demotivated, set up a seminar. “It really is something that works. We organised a seminar in September, and the feedback was excellent. People told us they really needed it, it did them good. It's a huge source of motivation internally and gives a new impetus to the group!”

❓Which needs does it meet? Social needs / needs for love and belonging, of course.


💬 A last word from Mathilde Salobir, HR Director at Sport Heroes: 

“If you sense lower morale in the company, my advice is to focus on a single stage of the pyramid: the need to belong. This is also the hardest to achieve. It is something intimate, difficult to grasp. You need to focus on day-to-day actions, on team events and company rituals. It all helps to convey a sense of the collective, to encourage collaboration and to pass on values to all the staff. Because, in the end, what boosts employees on a daily basis is not a job or an assignment.  Staff don't stay in a company because they like their work or because they are having a great time professionally. They stay for their colleagues, for their manager. They stay for people rather than for assignments. ”