Graduating the Graduate Program

 18 months, 6 placements, 6 fresh-faced graduate trainees, one incredible journey!

With placement locations spanning the globe, high-profile projects reporting into senior management and relocating and taking on new projects every 3 months, the TUI Specialist & Activity Sector Graduate Leadership Program has been quite a journey! To mark the end of the 2011-2013 graduate intake, we have put together a video montage using a selection of photos taken over the course of our graduate program. Though this can only begin to document both the exhilarating, and often surreal highs, alongside the arduous, self-questioning challenges of the graduate program, we hope you will enjoy this snippet of our TUI journey so far… And now as we move into new roles within the company (and wave a teary goodbye to Laura) we thank you for your support over the past 18 months and for the opportunities the TUI SAS Graduate Leadership Program has given us. 


You can access our Graduate Program Video Montage here!


2011-2013 TUI SAS Graduate Intake

Categories: Ben Cook, Ben Gill, Deborah, Jennifer, Kelly, Laura | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment

You Can’t Change the World in 3 Months. But You Can Try.

As the 2011 graduate scheme comes to an end, Laura looks back over her 18 months on the programme.

18 months ago, I embarked on a journey. I didn’t know where it would take me, what I’d do or where I’d end up.

18 months on, I’ve spent 9 months living in North America, travelled nearly 32,000 miles and been to 13 Olympic events. As it all comes to an end, here are my top lessons learned on the TUI Travel Specialist & Activity Graduate Scheme…

1) Dress code matters.

I walked into my first day of my first placement dressed in a pencil skirt, blouse and heels. Everyone else in my office was wearing jeans and hoodies. Quite the faux pas. As much as I liked to dress smartly for work, dressing so differently to everyone else only served to exacerbate an already alien situation, where I’d ‘come in from TUI’ and some people believed I was there to ‘spy’ on them.

Needless to say, my wardrobe changed for the rest of that placement!

2) Business need comes before personal need.

Coming onto the scheme, I wanted to learn as much as possible and to prove myself in every placement. So when, in placement 3, I was tasked with boosting the number of passengers travelling to Kenya, I did everything I could to make that happen. But while my efforts focused on the struggling country, my colleagues were struggling to keep their destinations profitable too. Had I focused more on the overall business need, I might have made better use of my time.

3) Personal need comes before business need.

As much as the opposite is true, personal need also comes before business need in some circumstances. The grad scheme before one of them. My placement 2 was a perfect example of this. Working with the Finance Director at Quark Expeditions, I had projects that needed to be completed but I also had a strong desire to learn about finance. I communicated this to my manager from the start and as such received lots of on the job and more classroom style learning which really helped me.

4) Networks are valuable (and really nice to have!).

We talk a lot about networking in business. People carry business cards around, they scan every room they walk into for the most notable person to speak to, they maintain their LinkedIn accounts with pride. We meet so many people in our day to day work and yes, it is important to try to keep in touch. But more than that, I believe our working life is what we make it and when we spent 8 hours a day with people, networking is about far more than business cards. Be friendly, make friends, show real interest in people and the rest will fall into place.

5) You can’t change the world in 3 months. But you can try.

We’ve always known that 3 months is a really short amount of time when you’re trying to prove yourself and achieve what the business needs – and more. You can’t expect to be able to do everything you could possibly want to in that time. But I’m also a firm believer that time shouldn’t hold you back either. By striving to achieve as much as possible in 3 months, we make intelligent decisions to manage our workload and the expectations of those around you. Take my placement 5 in Seattle; it took 8 weeks to take a website from conceptualisation to launch and I still had time to create a full marketing plan and offline campaign, plus a range of other tasks around the business. Not bad for 3 months…

What next?

For me, the 31st May marks the end of my TUI journey. I look back with fondness and gratitude over the last 18 months and wish everyone I’ve met along the way the very best for the future.

Here’s a selection of my photos from my time at TUI:

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Categories: Laura | Tags: , , , , , | 1 Comment

How to cure hiccups (and become workplace hero!)

1) Wait for the opportune moment
You know the one. Your poor colleague has been hiccuping for the last 5 minutes, he’s getting frustrated (so is the rest of the team). Now is your chance to step up.

2) Ask the simple question
What did you have for dinner last Saturday? (Important to choose 2-4 days ago. Last night is too fresh and any longer than 4 days is too long).

3) Hold your own as you are mocked by your team
They will mock, they will question your curious method. But it’s only a matter of time now…

4) Assume ‘hero’ status
Hiccups will disappear and your team will be astounded. True story. Happened to me last week. (Don’t forget to act modestly. No one likes a show off!)

Try this at home; you’ll be surprised how well it actually works! Apparently this type of question causes the hiccupper to change his breathing pattern which, in turn, vanquishes the hiccups!!

With skills like these, who wouldn’t give us grads a job?! 🙂

Categories: Deborah | Leave a comment

All Go, and some Snow!

Debs reflects on a busy few months…


Boarding in Les Menuires

So it’s been a while since my last blog entry and while I’d like to blame this on limited internet connectivity, the truth is I was probably out on the slopes! Let’s back up a little. Following on from my placement with JCA, I was offered the incredible opportunity to do a resort-based operations and customer service placement with SkiBound France, in the Alps!! Fast forward a few days (literally!) and a mad panic buy of ski gear and I find myself in the 1850m ski haven of Les Menuires. With 160km of pistes, doorstep skiing and 3m snowfall in the first week alone it was very easy to forget that I was actually there to do some work! Skiing aside though, this was actually my most rewarding placement so far as I was able to see for myself how all the work put in in the UK office translates for the customer in resort. It also allowed me to see where we might be able to improve working relationships between staff in the UK and our resort-based teams.

In February, the grads all regrouped back in Crawley for our last Learning & Development week on the Grad Program. As with each L&D week, Ed and Jen were on hand to offer some helpful training and advice to set us up for our final few months as grads and to assist in our career planning following the program. We also retook our Insights Test, and though none of us have changed very dramatically (disappointing) we did get some shiny new lego blocks (result!).

I am now based back in Port Solent, this time with the Marine Division, working in a Project Management role as part of a division-wide business strategy project. I have been tasked with looking after 19 projects in the online improvement workstream – arguably one of the key workstreams in the overall scope of the project!

The job hunt is on!

Thankfully I have a great team around me to offer support and to help get me quickly up to speed on the project. I am also working on the testing stages of a new website launch for one of our brands as I specifically wanted to develop my skills in ecommerce.

When I somehow find a spare minute, I am busy updating my CV and applying for jobs so that I can hopefully transition from my final placement into a project management or business development role. Wish me luck!

Categories: Deborah | Leave a comment

Six Months in Seattle

Laura Hampton in America

Enjoying the American tradition of ‘football’…

Laura reflects on a double placement in TUI’s North American Division…

Moving around every 3 months is tough. Finding a new home, meeting new people, getting used to a new office… it all takes time and, just when you think you’ve cracked it, you move again.

So I guess I was ‘lucky’ when my manager asked me if I’d like to stay for a second placement here in Seattle, but it wasn’t an easy decision to do so. In this post, I’ll give an overview of what I did during my first three months, what I did during my second and the ups and downs along the way…

I arrived in Seattle last September where I was placed to take over from Debs on a project she’d started earlier in the year. Based on her business plan and research, I was tasked with setting up a new department for two of the North American brands; my brief was to have it launched and running before I left.

Luckily for me, Debs had left some great foundations and that meant getting my head around the project was the easy part (thanks Debs!). But, as is often the case in these placements, understanding the project is not the big job. The bigger piece of work lies in understanding the business, the requirements and the politics which can all impact on how the project moves forward and the best direction to take it in.

I was able to move through the complications by identifying the requirements and the problems, and carving out my own role where I could help steer the project forward and utilise my own skills to add some real value. During that three month period, I successfully wireframed and wrote the content for a new website, employed a designer and managed the development team from project brief to launch to create a site that everyone was happy with and that could grow with the project (and I wrote a full content management guide to help this along). I wrote a full marketing plan, including tone of voice and SEO guidelines, which was accepted by all key stakeholders and even made it into the hands of the head of TUI Group! And I came up with a marketing idea which, when launched, brought in 9 booking requests within its first week.

I had lots I was proud of – plus I’d been really working on my own personal development to be less ‘fiery red’ and more ‘sunshine yellow’ (Insights) and felt I’d done a good job of softening my approach on the whole. But all of this made my decision to extend my placement a difficult one – could I keep up the ‘good work’ and continue to impress or was I just good at 3 month placements? Would I have enough work to do? And with another grad on her way out to Seattle, was it even fair for me to stay?

I thought about it long and hard (after all, I’d been away from home for 3 months and missed my friends and family a lot) but the opportunity I had here to extend my learning and work on some new and exciting projects was too much to pass up. So I stayed for another placement, during which I handed over my project to Jen who took over from me, and worked on various Divisional level projects including a review of how we work with travel agents and how that can be improved, the identification and subsequent employment of a ‘preferred supplier’ list of web design agencies for the Division, and various competitor analyses and training programmes for one of our brands.

It’s certainly been a busy 6 months and I’ve really enjoyed being here. I’ve learned a lot and I’ve been able to get some travel in too – I’ve seen Vancouver, Idaho, Portland and Las Vegas during my time here, as well as plenty of skiing up in the nearby mountains! But it’s been a challenge – on a personal level more than anything – and only time will tell if spending so long in the US has affected my networks back home.

Categories: Laura | Tags: , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Good times (in an office…)

With Christmas almost upon us and the rest of the Grads having a great time abroad, Ben reflects on the good times he’s had recently in the Brighton and Surbiton offices.

I’ve never been a fan of working in an office. Sitting all day, staring at a computer screen, occasionally making a cup of coffee is a little… er… dull. Fortunately, there are times when working in an office can be a lot of fun. Aside from the fascinating projects I’ve been working on recently (more info to come in the new year), the social side can also be great. Furthermore, I think a good social environment can create a happy workforce, which is essential for a business to prosper.

For example, whilst in Brighton with the Sector’s eCommerce and iExplore team, we had “International Food Fridays”. Brave volunteers would sign up and promise to make the national dish of whichever country came out of the hat. I was given Portugal. Unfortunately I’ve never been to Portugal and had no idea what to make. Fortunately, there was a resident Portuguese guy (Fred Cardoso) who was there to advise/encourage/pressure me to make sure it was a success!

The result can be seen in the picture below and (to my relief) it went down really well:

For someone that never cooked a Portuguese dish, Ben got really near a Portuguese Chef” – Fred, resident Portuguese food expert.

There was also Movember, Halloween bake sales and an amazing place to have lunch (see pics below).

I have recently moved to the Crystal Ski office in Surbiton, where there is also a great social atmosphere. We’ve had a huge Christmas party, numerous cakes, several gingerbread houses and even wrapped the Product Director’s desk up in Christmas wrapping paper! ‘Tis the Season!

I hope you enjoy the pictures below and have a great Christmas wherever you are.

Categories: Ben Gill | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

The Value of Brand Affiliations


Understanding brand partnerships

The ‘gangs’ we choose to be part of can say a lot about us as a brand.

Laura gives her opinion on partnerships for brands…

As part of my current placement with the North American Division, I’ve been thinking a lot about the potential value of partnerships. With the success of their recent Four Seasons sponsored trip still a hot topic for TCS & Starquest, they’ve certainly gone a long way to proving the potential benefits of a joint sales venture. But I believe the affiliations we create, much like the friends we choose to hang out with, can have a huge impact on how our brands are understood by the audience.

Not wanting to stereotype too much, but imagine for a moment that you meet me sitting on a park bench, surrounded by young people who are all wearing skateboard clothing and carrying skateboards. Now, it’s probably fair to say that you’d assume I too was a skateboarder because I’m hanging out with that ‘crowd’, and you’d probably make assumptions about me because of that. No doubt you’d think I share the same values as the people I’m sat with – I, like them, am probably pretty active and sporty, probably young and probably something of a miscreant at times.

Now imagine you meet me in a coffee shop and I’m surrounded by people in business suits. Again, you’d probably assume that I too am a business person and all of the values you’d associate with business people, you’ll likely associate with me too.

I believe it’s exactly the same for brands. Had TCS & Starquest created a trip sponsored by Red Bull, for example, you’d probably expect that trip to be full of adrenaline sports, extreme activities (and plenty of energy drink!). In their association with Four Seasons, the brand will no doubt inherit some of those associations too; people will view TCS as a luxurious, high quality brand with a focus on customer experience and a willingness to please and to personalise.

Of course, as any person in any group of friends does, every brand brings its own values to the table and, like friendships, the relationships they have must provide space for each brand’s own ‘personality’ too. In the case of TCS & Starquest, they were able to enhance the brand of Four Seasons by reaffirming its luxury status but adding elements of adventure and education from which both brands can now benefit.

And I’d argue that it’s not just in these direct partnerships that we need to consider the impact on our brand. In marketing ourselves, we should always seek to place ourselves in the places that mirror our brand values and never detract from them, but the same applies to where our advert appears and which magazine we’re therefore aligning ourselves with, or even where on the shelf of brochures our own sits and which shops we choose to be sold in. Everything we do is an exercise in branding and by understanding our own ‘friendship group’, we can ensure our brand continues to build.

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A De-volution in Travel?

Face to face sales at A&K store

We mustn’t neglect face-to-face as a tool for customer engagement

Laura gives her take on changes in travel…

We’ve spent years moving toward an online driven travel model. From the growth of Expedia to Google Flights and the popularity of Trip Advisor, we as an industry have been faced with the fact that the purchase of travel is becoming a much more online driven experience.

But is that necessarily the right way to go?

The financial benefits of online business are an obvious ‘pro’ – the cost of setting up and maintaining a website can potentially provide a far better return on investment than a shop can due to lower overheads and increased potential reach. There’s also the ease it provides the consumer too; I know I’ve used online booking systems for my own personal holidays (it’s ok – I was booking a Thomson holiday!) and I appreciated the speed with which I could do it and the fact that everything I needed to know was right there in writing before me. Plus, I’m a huge supporter of an online approach to travel.

And yet, when I look at businesses like our own over here in TUI North America, and at the likes of Abercrombie & Kent (who’s new flagship store in London inspired this post), I have to wonder if online really is the best translation of our business values.

Where the primary driver of the business is to provide a truly personalised and customised experience for every customer, it seems obvious that no amount of fancy coding will give that truly individual feel to any website. As much as we can post out telephone numbers and use social media to convey our brand voice and engage the customer, are we ever really going to capture that personalised feel without including face-to-face interactions?

I’m certainly not going to go as far as to argue we can’t; I think there are some great websites out there and some brilliant campaigns which really work well for the brand (take Expedia’s current ‘Find Yours’ campaign – it encapsulates their brand values perfectly) but for A&K and others like them, I believe they’re making a great move by investing in physical stores.

The challenge they will face lies in the years we have spent encouraging consumers to move online. We live in a society where making purchases through a website is by no means uncommon, and it is seen to an extent to be somewhat archaic when we venture into a real life travel agent shop, so how do we refocus that consumer once again without seeming like a group of fools of blindly jumped aboard the web 2.0 bandwagon without foreseeing that we’d only be jumping off again a few years down the line?

For me, it comes down to differentiation. We do not need to ‘jump off the bandwagon’ – in fact, I think there is an argument for us to take the reins and drive the wagon!  Instead, we must be able to showcase the more ‘old-fashioned’ approach of a physical shop as a continuation and a development of the path we’ve been heading down anyway, where online must enhance offline and any approach we take must always be customer focused. We must, in essence, reinvent the wheel by showcasing travel shops as an innovation.

We can already see this approach in action with the likes of Virgin and their concept store, where customers use iPads and augmented reality to browse destinations and put together quotes with the assistance of the in store advisors. There’s not a lot of information available on the new A&K store as yet, but it already seems from their PR that they are attempting to differentiate their store from the travel agents we know to something more experientially led, again making use of iPads and the store layout to give that innovative feel.

The point I’d like to make here is that we really do need to view every innovation we see as a new tool – to enhance and not replace what we already had. Online may be an incredibly powerful tool, but so is face-to-face and we really mustn’t forget that. In deciding how we communicate our business values, we have an entire toolbox at our disposal. I look forward to seeing what A&K do with their new addition.

Categories: Laura | Tags: , , , , , | 1 Comment

Condover Up Close

Deborah’s getting in touch with her inner child and exploring her creative side…

I really do not feel I have the stamina (or the free time) to compete with BCo’s latest blog post – interesting though it was! Instead, I thought I’d follow up with a brief update on my current placement with JCA based in sunny Port Solent.

JCA are part of the TUI Education Division and specialise in adventure residential trips for both school and non-school groups at one of their 13 UK-based activity centres. They offer a range of activities and courses aiming to promote education, personal development, team-building and of course, fun! Their flagship activity centre Condover Hall, (which you may remember from the TUI Sport Weekend blog post) offers a fantastic range of both indoor and outdoor activities as well as sporting events and corporate team-building. A few weeks back I was lucky enough to visit the centre and get in touch with my inner child, taking part in many of the activities – my colleague Emily and I rocked the laser maze and Grid of Stones but sadly we didn’t scale the heights of the high ropes course!

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Disclaimer: these images are not of myself, sorry!

Having worked at Divisional or Sector level for my past 3 placements I am finding it very refreshing to now be working at brand level and I’m really enjoying the increased autonomy and responsibility that comes with this type of placement. Working with the marketing department, I am very much embracing my creative side, developing new skills and gaining a better understanding of the difficulties in marketing a product where the end customer actually differs to the product’s target market.

A key focus of my placement here is to look at how we can more efficiently market our business to school teachers and other party leaders. School teachers (especially primary school teachers) are notoriously difficult to market to due to the fact that they are either teaching a class or on some form of school holiday! And even if they do happen to be available, you need to first succeed in getting past the gate-keeper (a.k.a. school secretary) which is not an easy task I can assure you! In this market, even more so than in other parts of the travel industry, word of mouth can really make or break your business. Teachers talk. Ensuring that our product remains innovative and of a high quality, while maintaining a high level of service will be key to the continuing success of the business.

A large part of my project here involves analysing how we track and reward our loyal customers. In such a highly competitive market and with many schools restricted by budget and rules against using the same provider year on year, this is proving to be a far more difficult task than I had first anticipated. I find myself regularly drawing on the acquisition/retention learning of my university days while evaluating the customer retention success in other businesses in the market.

Anyways, I said I’d keep this short and sweet so I’ll save my extra-curricular adventures for next time. Jennifer O’Gorman and I shall be taking on Paris with our TUI staff deals next weekend so I’m sure we’ll have some great customer experience stories to share with you – we all know how the French are for customer service!


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Revealing Employee Motivation

Ben’s been taking a theoretical approach to his new project…

Let’s get started
I’ve been given the unenviable task of devising a new pay, bonus and incentive structure for Specialist Holidays Group’s multichannel distribution department. The aim of the task is to improve customer service, increase colleague collaboration, reduce interchannel competition and increase profits across a department of 400+ people.

Questioning things
Since being given the project, I’ve spoken to a number of managers and team leaders across our brands (American Holidays, Austravel, Citalia, Crystal, Flexible Flights, Hayes & Jarvis, Jetsave, Meon Villas, and Sovereign), and channels (Call centre, Online, Trade). As I’ve engaged in these conversations and grappled with intensely detailed incentive schemes, a number of questions have arisen that, even when answered, lead to more questions:

  • How are people incentivised now?
  • Who should be incentivised? Everyone?
  • What behaviours are we trying to encourage?
  • What behaviours can we incentivise?
  • What behaviours exist already?
  • What motivations underpin these behaviours?
  • How can we change salary, bonuses and pay to channel motivations that deliver desirable behaviours?

I need to be motivated
I started to think about what motivates people on a very basic level. At first I considered Maslow’s hierarchy of needs as an indicator of motivation, taking it for granted that people would be motivated by need to take action. The basic needs of Air, Food, Water, etc. would cause people to take action, but there were a few problems with this idea. Firstly, urgent needs tend to distort normal behaviours. Two thirsty men in the desert may fight to the death over a bottle of water, even though they had no history of competition in the past. A man may decide to rob a bank in an attempt to secure the financial future of his family, even though in circumstances where his family are financially comfortable, he is not intrinsically motivated by achieving high levels of wealth. I felt that I couldn’t rely on any test of need as an indicator of motivation, because needs distort motivation.

I changed tack and began considering what activities all people undertake just for the sake of the activity, and what activities I undertake. What do I spend hours doing which involves a high level of engagement, but I get paid nothing for. Essentially, what do I enjoy doing?

Geek speak
Back when I was a teenager I had something of an addiction to playing Age of Empires II. Beating computer controlled players was satisfying enough, but when I could play online to compete with real people, I found that smashing their cities and killing their villagers was even more satisfying. At Uni my housemates accused me of being obsessed with PES. It started off with me buying the game and we all played together, but then I started playing on my own and beating my housemates all the time. They refused to play me anymore, and I lost interest in playing on my own. When I was a teacher and an exam period came around, I could think of nothing better than trying to conquer Europe in Medieval II: Total War. The best part to me wasn’t the struggle to dominate the map, but the real-time battles where you mentally and physically had to outmanoeuvre and rout your opponent. There’s nothing quite like seeing a once formidable army fleeing your wake.

I now try to avoid these games as much as possible, but it led me to start thinking that everyone plays games; I know you are thinking you don’t, but I’m including all games and sports, from Angry Birds to Soccer to Hide & Seek to Scrabble. Everyone has played a game, and everyone enjoys different kinds of games, which is when I stumbled across Richard Bartle‘s Test of Gamer Psychology

Gamer Types
Bartle is a writer, professor and game researcher who was involved in the very beginnings of virtual worlds involving multiple players. In a 1996 paper, Bartle split players of Massive Multiplayer Online Role Playing Games (MMORPGs) into four types:

  • Killers – Thriving on competition with other players
  • Achievers – Preferring to gain “points,” levels, equipment and other concrete measurements of succeeding
  • Socializers – Playing games for the social aspect, rather than the actual game itself
  • Explorers – Preferring to discover areas, create maps and learning about hidden places

There’s even a test to discover which type you are developed by Erwin Andreasen and Brandon Downey. This was an interesting tangent from trying to develop a real life incentive scheme for real life people. Or was it tangent? Could it be fundamental to the entire project? I kept reading and stumbled across an update of Bartle’s gamer types, written by Jon Radoff.

Gamer Motivations
Radoff, an entrepreneur, author and game designer, sets out two axis against which gamers could be measured, dividing their motivations into four quadrants, roughly equivalent to Bartle’s Gamer types:

Four Quadrants of Player Motivations

Four Quadrants of Player Motivations

  • Competition: player involvement where individuals complete over scarce resources, comparison, and win/loss situations; incorporates Bartle’s ‘Killers’
  • Achievement: sense of progress, mastery of skills and knowledge, etc, incorporates Bartle’s ‘Achievers’
  • Cooperation: player involvement in activities where they are helping each other, through creativity, shared adversity, etc, incorporates Bartle’s ‘Socializers’
  • Immersion: stories, roleplaying, exploration, imagination, and a sense of connectedness to the world of the game, incorporates Bartle’s ‘Explorers’.

Geeks are people too
It used to be that games were played by particular groups of people, stereotyped as greasy haired teenage boys who didn’t have anything better to with their time. The games that they played tapped into the the things that motivated them intrinsically in ways that real life couldn’t.  Those driven by competition were playing against friends and AI, attempting to get another victory, while those driven by cooperation were playing for the pay-off of interacting with others, victory being less important. Achievers were seeking to better themselves,  setting records and completing tasks, while Explorers were immersing themselves in virtual worlds, exploring new worlds and testing out every scenario.

These different names have been used to classify gamers, and help them know what they enjoy most out of their gaming experiences. But more and more people play games in their daily lives through Facebook and smartphones. Words With Friends, Farmville, Angry Birds, Temple Run, Draw Something, Wii Sports and Rock Band are all positively mainstream. So when we break gamers down into four distinct types, are we actually breaking people into four types? The more I thought about it, even social media seemed to be an illustration of the four motivations in action. Facebook seemed to tick at least three boxes, providing an immersive social environment where you get to show off to your friends about how great your life is, to the point where people are almost addicted and lying about how much fun they’re having. Foursquare, Instagram, Pinterest, Twitter, in fact, all social media that we take part in has us working for free because they are means to reach the ends we desire; I want to have the best life, I want to have the life I want, I want to live my life with everyone, I want to live everything.

Based on these thoughts I have come to believe that, with a little adjustment, the gamer types be used to discover workplace motivation.

Hold your horses, Dan Pink has spoken
I like to watch TED talks and RSA talks on the internet. They feed my brain over breakfast, and satisfy my desire to seek constant enlightenment. A few months ago I watched a video of Dan Pink talk at TED about motivation, and key parts of his talk stuck with me to influence the way I viewed the world. This was further reinforced by reading The Social Animal by New York Times columnist David Brooks, and another talk by Pink at the RSA. The biggest idea I took away from these talks (and a few scientific studies I blew my brains out with) was that material incentives are detrimental to the completion of complex tasks. This was mind-altering to me but delightfully simple. Almost any kind of activity that requires creative thinking, which includes almost any non-repetitive activity, is hindered by the prospect of material reward. But this includes sales, doesn’t it?

A knee-jerk reaction to this idea in our sales centre would be to remove incentives and bonuses and pay a higher basic salary. That’s a knee-jerk reaction because we have hired a lot of people who are motivated by money, and some have worked here for many years being paid for performance and consistently performing for that reason. We, as an employer, have a transactional relationship with many of our employees, a relationship that is amplified the better the employee is – we’ve hired for that drive and we’ve fed that drive, but what’s behind that drive?

Pink’s 3 Motivating Factors
In his book Drive, Dan Pink writes about 3 factors leading to better performance and personal satisfaction:

  • Autonomy: The desire to be self-directed
  • Mastery: The urge to get better and better at something that matters
  • Purpose: The urge to do what we do in service to something larger than ourselves

According to Pink, these three factors are important to everyone as long as money is not an issue. We want autonomy to define our own lives and do what we want to do, which actually makes a lot of sense until I start thinking about our sales centre and that the phones have to be manned 9 til 9. Most of our sales staff, even if given autonomy, would choose to continue working; if they are on the phone, they are making more money. What if they weren’t making more money and money wasn’t an issue? What would they do then? Would they do something they wanted to do, or something they needed to do?

Mastery is an interesting idea, and Pink has expressed it in two different ways. The “urge to get better at stuff” and the “urge to get better at something that matters” are actually different ideas, hinging on the word “matters”. What matters to me doesn’t matter to you and may not matter to the company I work for. Some people want to be better at playing guitar, some people want to be better at making friends, some people want to be better at holding their drink, and some people don’t really care about getting better at all – they just want to try everything.

Every company worth its salt these days has a transcendent purpose. Here at TUI we have the TUI Spirit, with the Vision “Making travel experiences special”, which is easy for me to engage with. I can also understand how people might not engage with it, in which case they probably shouldn’t be working for the company. My point is that having a purpose for a company is a great idea, but you cannot motivate everyone with a single purpose. I doubt that a double-glazing company could have any transcendent purpose which could motivate me, though I keep an open mind.

I’m not writing these 3 factors off, on the contrary, I think that they are highly valuable for looking at how to motivate staff. What I do think is that staff are highly variable in how they react to autonomy, mastery and purpose, and my assertion is that they react in accordance with the end they wish to achieve through an activity.

The Four Ends of Activity
I’ve adapted Bartle’s gamer types and Randall’s gamer motivations to the workplace to devise four primary ends:

  • Command
  • Collaboration
  • Achievement
  • Enlightenment

I propose that all people, if given the choice, are motivated to pursue the above, that they derive pleasure from all activities they undertake according to the ends that deliver the biggest psychological payload. These four are sought by individuals as ends in themselves.

For example, some people derive great pleasure from proving themselves better than their peers, installing themselves in leadership positions, and enjoying the prestige of winning. In every area of their life they are chasing to beat the next person in front of them, and play to win. They may be competing materially with their peers, keeping up with the proverbial Jones’s, by chasing a bigger house and a better car, and as a result may be money-driven. Their motivation is Command.

Some people have their own goals and targets, deriving pleasure from smashing those targets, achieving higher levels in life for the sake of the Achievement end. Their personal goals may or may not be material, and for this reason achievers may be money-driven (often more acutely than those motivated by Command), and they will continue to set goals, even when their lives have become comfortable. They’ll climb mountains to prove to themselves they can do it.

Some people derive pleasure from interacting with others, always seeking out people whether they know them or not; every interaction has the potential to be a rewarding experience. For those motivated by Collaboration, they do not care whether they win or lose, but they do care if they get to be with you. Collaborators enjoy work as long as there’s discussion, feedback, and everyone’s involved. They will be money-driven as long as it sustains (and doesn’t interfere with) their social lives , and if surrounded by money-driven commanders and achievers they will join in to have more in common with those around them.

Some people are always working things out, exploring ideas and forming theories about how the world works. They derive great pleasure from a new discovery, and get a mental pay off at moments of Enlightenment. They can get caught up in ideas and be fanatical about an activity, as long as it continues to deliver new discoveries. Seekers of enlightenment can be difficult to motivate and will even find themselves difficult to motivate – if a project does not involve them furthering their own understanding of the world, they can find it boring or mundane. 

The 2 Axes
As in Randall’s Gamer motivations, I plotted the Ends on 2 axes: People vs Environment (i.e. the world around) and Act Upon vs Interact With.

The Four Ends plotted on their axes.

The Four Ends of Activity

People who enjoy Acting Upon People are Commanders, deriving pleasure from winning and leadership as an end in itself. This is not to say that those motivated by Collaboration, Enlightenment or Achievement can’t be leaders, but holding a leadership position isn’t an end in itself to those 3 types. Collaborators are motivated to Interact With People,  Seekers (of Enlightenment) are motivated to Interact With their Environment, immersing themselves in it and testing out hypotheses, and Achievers are driven to Act Upon the Environment, stamping their name on it by reaching goals.

But I am none of those
I have been working on a test to discover which Ends are sought through activity, based on the original gamer type test (though it has become far removed from that at this point). As I have been testing this out on people, no one has been 100% anything, which is to be expected. Everyone is a complex individual who may be motivated to pursue multiple ends.

I’ll use myself as an example. Last time I took the test I came out as:
72% Enlightenment
62% Command
42% Achievement
22% Collaboration

I am motivated by all four ends, but to different extents.

My primary End is Enlightenment, which probably comes as no surprise to those who know me. I was on the phone to my mother, explaining the four Ends, and she immediately picked out Enlightenment as mine. I am motivated by massive, novel projects that I can become completely immersed in and passionate about, such as this one. My brain doles out a huge dopamine hit when I make a new discovery or solve a problem or apply a theory and it works, to the point where I blush and my hair stands on end. It’s practically an out of body experience.

I am also motivated by command. I always want to win. I was travelling with a friend recently, playing scrabble on her Kindle, and she became more and more infuriated that I would not let her win. Considering I have a score of 22% for collaboration and 62% for command, that’s no surprise; there’s far more pay-off for me if I win than if I cooperate. When I was studying Chinese, in order to motivate myself, I couldn’t depend on getting much thrill from simply achieving a high level of Chinese. In my first semester I picked someone in my class with a comparable level of Chinese that I could compete with, and I won, which was deeply satisfying. I got the added bonus of scoring higher than any other westerner in the grade, which probably gave me too much of a pay-off.

Means vs Ends
If you give people Autonomy you give them the means to seek whatever ends they want. If you give people the opportunity to exercise Mastery, they will seek to master something that they want. If you give them Purpose, you better make sure it’s a purpose that they can engage with (otherwise it’s no more than hot air).

But if you know what they want, if you know they derive satisfaction from collaborating, seeking, achieving or commanding, or any combination of those, you can deploy your employees according to what delivers them the greatest satisfaction. The best relationship you can have with your employees is to have their pursuit of happiness align with your business need.

I’ll update you next time on how I am attempting to apply the Four Ends of Activity.

Categories: Ben Cook | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

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