How to: Keep staff motivated

Give staff autonomy

I believe in empowering staff – particularly branch managers – and letting them think for themselves. They are at the coal face day in day out, have a great knowledge of their local business and have a very good idea of what is the best way to run their shop.

Guide them in the right direction and be there for them when needed, but let them use their imagination. It means that staff  aren’t frightened to try new things, feel they have a voice and, most importantly, are listened to.

Set challenges

I have found a regional league table of sales figures to be a big motivator. Staff like to see their name on the league table, particularly when they can see themselves moving up the table or compare how their sales results are doing against others.

We update our league table weekly and input the results of all the staff in Scotland. Everyone strives to be top; monitoring sales results does work.

Address problems positively

Monitoring success is important because it means underperformance can be picked up and tackled. However, the way you address any underperformance is crucial: make staff believe they can achieve targets, explain their potential and then stretch them.

In the long run, bullying tactics never work. Once staff have succeeded, the sense of achievement is a great motivator. That is then the time to give them recognition. A ‘well done’ makes all the difference to staff. Day-to-day recognition drives staff to do well and they feel appreciated and looked after.

Let staff have fun too

I remember being told I would never be a millionaire working in travel but that I could experience the lifestyle. And it’s true.

I have stayed in fantastic hotels and on cruise ships, dined in the best restaurants and seen amazing countries on educationals and these experiences certainly motivate me.

Let your staff go to industry events and on fam trips where possible. Social events, such as those organised by the SPAA, are a great motivator. I appreciate agency bosses have to keep their eye on the bottom line, but on most occasions staff spend hardly any money.

I sit on the SPAA council as social convenor, and we often find there are suppliers hosting tables who find it difficult to get places filled by travel agents. I am always surprised, as I can’t think of a valid reason not to allow staff to attend.

Treat staff fairly and allow them to attend to build relationships with people in the industry. They will feel appreciated and trusted and are more likely to remain loyal to your company.

Recognise top talent 

I have an awards evening every year to recognise my top sales people and top shops. This really works and staff strive all year to be on that stage and to be recognised in front of their colleagues.  

Be communicative

Knowledge is power and a well-communicated team with clear direction is a motivated team: they know what’s expected of them and they know their achievements will be recognised. Managers’ meetings are also important to make sure everyone is working together for the same goal. 

Treat staff with respect

Never forget that without that person sitting on the counter, day in day out selling holidays and flights, there would be no need for management. 

Appreciate this great industry – there is no other like it where you have an opportunity to see the world, sell dreams to people and attend amazing events.


Joanne Dooey, The Co-operative Travel regional manager for ScotlandJoanne Dooey os Co-operative Travel’s regional manager for Scotland. Having managed sales teams countrywide for more than a decade, she has found that motivating staff is essential to improve sales and maintain a happy workforce.

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