Frederica Marques

Keeping Your Impact Business Team Motivated: It starts with knowing their motivations

Do you feel you spend a lot of time finding the right people for your team and training them, just to lose them later? Would you like to build a strong, stable, innovative team over time? We have a question for you – what is your retention strategy? Over the past 8 years, edge has worked with impact businesses from all over the world, including Brazil, Colombia, India, Mexico and Kenya, and we have some tips for you on how you can tackle such a core issue that has the power to affect your company’s performance significantly.

Keeping a team engaged and motivated in Impact Business is a point of huge importance and a challenging one for that matter. After all, the traditional financial rewards don’t apply in this space; you cannot compete with the same incentives large corporates use for their employees. So what is it going to be? Do you understand what drives each of your employees to work in your business? How can you ensure they always have access to that one thing that keeps them going and keeps them motivated?

We wanted to bring you some real life examples, so we talked to a couple of people who participated in our Growth Business Associate Program and were retained in the businesses we placed them in. Our first perspective comes from Nathália Caldas who is from Brazil and worked at mDhil in India – she highlights the need to make team members feel valued and actively participate in the core of the business work and keep a fresh mind.

“One of the things I loved the most about working in India for mDhil was the work environment with very passionate and open minded co-workers. I see how our team leader influenced things to work smoothly this way and everyone took active participation on certain brand and website-related decisions. I believe an A Team is composed (of) bright individuals who share a common vision for the company and know exactly what role they play in it. This synergy made me stay longer because I knew I belonged to the team and this is the essence of any social business that strives for promoting change and challenging the status quo. Another important benefit was the flexible work hours so we would always come with a fresh mood and ideas to the office. Taking a few days off for vacations was not a bureaucratic burden, and most of us need time to relax and reinvent ourselves because this directly impacts productivity.”

Daniel Herrera, from Mexico who is an ‘innovation manager’ at Servivienda, a Colombian firm that provides housing solutions for low-income people, shares a similar opinion. He emphasizes the passion for the cause and the alignment of the company with his objectives, as well as a learning opportunity. But at the same time, he says:

“I think one of the key points of my decision is because I got involved in all the activities with passion and I want to develop this kind of social activities; “… of course…. you have to choose a company aligned with your objectives and have the commitment with the people, because the richness of helping someone is priceless. That’s why I wanted to learn more about the company, their activities and more about social business, in order to apply all the knowledge in the future when I start my own social business.”

His colleague, Yrasema Cruz, also from Mexico, talks about the alignment of the business with how she wants to build her career and the true value to working with a high-performing team on something that can’t be taught. Yrasema is a ‘social manager’ tasked with getting to know the real needs of the families Servivienda services. She also analyzes how to make the houses they build a source of income to the families.

“Being in charge of the social management model and its results for 6 months in an enterprise with over 37 years of experience allowed me to grow a lot professionally. I believe that changing people’s lives through your job and passion for social entrepreneurship are opportunities that you can only find in companies like Servivienda, which is why I decided to stay with the company; their values and strategies are aligned with my life project and I feel I´m working in a high performance team. This is what I want to do with my life, you don´t learn about it in school, you need to be with people and make a professional decision to improve their lives, that´s why I am still here.”

We hope these perspectives shed a light in helping you identify some of the key drivers for people working in Impact Businesses. Are they the same for your employees? Why don’t you ask them?

We want to leave you with a final message: Make sure your financial model involves a way to ensure long-term sustainable salaries for your employees – don’t forget they also want to plan their savings accounts and continue investing in their own education. For instance, have you thought of allowing part-time side jobs and share future prospective profits by dividing the equity stakes of the business? Social entrepreneurs and managers, you might really dig in to understand your employees offer on non-monetary recognitions, for example, giving them access to events, mentorship or networks.

If your goal is a strong, motivated, high-performing team you need to have a retention strategy that ensures it.

Frederica Marques is the Global Coordinator at edge, a multi-pronged talent development initiative for university students and recent graduates that aims to add value to businesses that serve the BOP.

business development