Free article: Promoting motivational benefits for team members

Published: Tuesday, 05 December 2017

Alison Fisk, Reward and Engagement Manager at Sunrise Senior Living UK and Gracewell Healthcare, looks at how to motivate team members, based on her own experience.


  • Motivational benefits increase the bonds between staff and their place of work, and ensure that individuals feel valued and recognised.
  • While staff appreciation is important all year round, it is also important to give it concrete recognition via events that celebrate team members’ contributions and achievements.
  • Social media is playing an increasingly crucial role in planning events and activities that reward staff.
  • Also vital are annual engagement surveys, and the promotion of a set of values that staff can attach themselves to.

Recognising staff achievement

Working in social care can be extremely demanding and challenging – but it is also one of the most rewarding careers. That is why it is crucial that care providers use every possible tool to motivate staff.

In the context of a sector often faced with staff shortages, and with traditionally high rates of staff turnover, it is important that care providers do everything within their power to guarantee that they stand out as a workplace of choice.

From annual awards ceremonies to social media campaigns, it is crucial that we give concrete form to year-long efforts to appreciate staff contributions, ensuring that staff are as happy and fulfilled as possible, and that they are given the best platform to care for residents.

Rewarding team members through events and campaigns

Reserving time in the annual calendar of activities to celebrate staff is the most effective way of maintaining morale.

Summer of Sunrise and Summer of Gracewell are month-long campaigns held in July, which encourage team members to celebrate each other’s skills and strengthen work relationships. At the heart of the campaigns is a collaborative effort to involve every team member across the whole organisation – from receptionist to nurse.

The campaigns were created in direct response to patterns that were evident in employees’ feedback. Many team members suggested that the recognition they receive for their work could benefit from a boost. The suggestion was taken to heart, and so Summer of Sunrise was born, and later rolled out to Gracewell Healthcare when it joined Sunrise in 2014.

The campaigns are built on the recognition that team members respond better when given the chance to visualise their employer’s values. For example, ‘embrace diversity’ means less on paper than it does as part of a fun activity, in which staff place pins or stickers on a map to show where they are from.

Some team members have been inspired to get creative – staff at Sunrise of Sonning, for example, produced a unique musical number in their community. Their choreography was inspired by a wider tradition within the Sunrise and Gracewell family: the team for every new Gracewell home creates a video centred on a musical performance. This brings together new personnel, and projects the benefits of Sunrise and Gracewell as a workplace.

Team members are also encouraged to enter a Facebook photo contest, by submitting a snapshot of one of the many events they organise for the Summer of Sunrise and Gracewell campaigns. There has been no limit to the teams’ creativity – from throwing tropical-themed parties, to organising visits from ice cream vans, to getting competitive over racquet sports.

The photo contest creates both an incentive to go the extra mile in planning events and activities, and a positive feedback loop with a reward for having done so – the winning photo is featured as the cover photo of the Sunrise and Gracewell Facebook pages.

Using social media and visual tools more widely also helps integrate team members, as new members can familiarise themselves with the organisation’s ethos and values. Social media has great potential to mobilise the praise of strangers. This is an especially important form of recognition given the often demanding nature of work in the care sector.

Instilling a set of core values

The impact of the month-long campaigns in July has been especially notable at Gracewell. While team members at Sunrise already had a strong sense of core organisational values – Passion, Joy in Service, Stewardship, Respect, and Trust, it was evident that when Gracewell joined Sunrise there was some work to do to make Gracewell’s values of Kindness, Empathy, Integrity, Respect and Trust, resonate with the team.

The aim was to help staff at Gracewell cultivate their own unique values, and to benefit from appreciation and recognition programmes that built on the insights gained from Sunrise.

To tackle this, a Gracewell team spirit programme was launched. This includes annual engagement surveys, the Summer of Gracewell campaign and the Heart and Soul Awards – the flagship annual staff recognition awards gala, in which team members nominate each other for different categories. The team spirit programme and the Summer of Gracewell campaign have proved invaluable in connecting staff to the goals of the business as a whole, so that everyone pulls together as one.

The Summer of Sunrise and Gracewell campaigns also follow annual engagement surveys, which give team members the opportunity to say candidly what is working and what isn’t. The campaigns are a way to engage team members before announcing and sharing the results, and participation has increased year-on-year. Most strikingly, affirmative responses to the survey statement ‘I believe strongly in the mission and values of Gracewell’ increased by 26%, reaching 92% in total this year.

The dedicated Reward and Engagement team have found a correlation between high engagement, increasing staff retention, and decreasing staff turnover.


Sunrise’s efforts have recently been recognised with the Most Motivational Benefits prize at the Employee Benefits Awards. This success can be attributed to the fact that the Summer of Sunrise and Gracewell campaigns, and the Heart and Soul Awards, make the most of simple activities that involve every individual in the team, from volunteers and receptionists to nurses and activities co-ordinators.

While staff recognition should be a priority all year round, it is crucial that it is given concrete form and becomes the central focus once a year. In a busy work environment that regularly challenges and stretches staff, taking time out to appreciate team members’ contributions is crucial to nurturing retention and aiding growth.

About the author

Alison Fisk is the head of reward and engagement strategies for Sunrise Senior Living and Gracewell Healthcare in the UK. She oversees all aspects of reward, including pay, remuneration, TUPE, pensions, employee benefits, recognition programmes and engagement strategies. She started her career in finance, pay and benefits before moving specifically into HR reward. and

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