Top tips for creating a successful motivation strategy

Motivating staff, offering incentives and celebrating achievement are important to Marston’s Inns and Taverns, so creating a strategy to support these elements was vital to success.


Engaging and rewarding employees creates a great working environment and drives our people to deliver a higher level of customer service in our pubs.

1. Implement a strategy that suits the workforce

At the core of our customer service proposition is our approach: Service Means I Look after Everyone (Smile). The concept behind Smile is that we want our team members to dedicate themselves to ensuring every customer at a Marston’s pub has a great experience. Therefore, we feel it is important to reward and recognise those who are seen delivering a great Smile service.

Our workforce of 11,000 employees spans the full length and breadth of the country, so it was important to introduce something that could extend to any team member in any pub, regardless of location, rewarding the great customer journey being delivered. Our industry is also about having fun and encouraging a great everyday experience for both customers and employees. For us, this meant long-term corporate incentives were just not relevant. We wanted to reward employees the moment things happened in a fun way.

As a result, we introduced Smile scratchcards. Every card contains a winning prize: from a free meal, a bottle of bubbly or theme park tickets, through to a weekend away, an iPad or even £500 worth of holiday vouchers. Every scratchcard winner also has the chance to be entered in a monthly prize draw to win £100.

2. Engage all employees with the scheme

When we launched our Smile scheme, we gave every area manager and field-based head office support teams a batch of cards and told them to reward when they saw great service.

We also wanted to share success with others, so we asked our teams to take and submit a fun selfie when a scratchcard was awarded so we could add them to our weekly newsletters. The selfies were also posted on our website and social media pages so friends and family could share in the celebration.

3. Use key events to create more incentives and motivation

At Christmas we added some festive cheer to the incentive by holding our ’12 days of Christmas’ event. An extra festive prize, such as a hamper, was awarded to one scratchcard winner for each of the 12 days. We wanted to recognise the continued hard work of our teams delivering Smile during this busy period. The initiative made our scratchcards even more flexible and relevant.

4. Top-down recognition is valuable

Smile works because it is quick, fun and relevant. Team members not only love the prize they win, but also the recognition given by senior management acknowledging their efforts. Unlike other similar industry incentives, these scratchcards are for everyone; such as kitchen teams and chefs coping well during a busy session, or front of house for being flexible and accommodating specific requirements for a customer’s meal. Everyone is part of our customer’s journey, so we recognise the whole team contributing to the success.

5. Use engagement surveys to record the scheme’s success 

We have seen increases in our engagement scores with higher morale levels across our teams. The recognition scheme has meant that our team members feel engaged and valued for their contribution. We have also seen a rise in our customer satisfaction scores, which is further evidence that the scratchcards are making a positive impact.

Our last engagement survey captured employees’ comments about the scratchcards, including: ’The best thing about working for Marston’s is being recognised and contributing to the success of the organisation,’ and ’The best thing about working for Marston’s is the Smile cards and getting recognition for your hard work’.

Jenny Williams is resourcing manager at Marston’s Inns and Taverns