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9 ways we motivate our staff

Posted by Annemie Burger on April 6, 2017 at 8:00 PM
Annemie Burger
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Your staff are your best brand ambassadors. Here are a few ways to motivate your team, increase productivity and create a great company culture.

 As the HR manager at Penquin for the past nine years, I’ve learnt that staff motivation comes from management.

It’s the small things that make a big difference to team spirit in the workplace. Earning a salary doesn’t affect morale (unless staff are underpaid), but apart from pay grade, there are two key aspects that affect staff morale: recognition and two-way communication. Letting your staff know that they’re appreciated, while keeping open lines of communication, will create a great company culture and ultimately increase productivity. 

If your staff feel like they’re just a cog in a machine, they’re likely to show less initiative, less innovation and feel less responsible for hitting company targets. On the other hand, if you’re able to understand your employees’ pain points, recognise their achievements and establish their buy-in to company values, your staff can be your best brand ambassadors.

At Penquin we have five core values which we encourage our staff to uphold. These values are the foundations of our company culture.

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Here are nine ways that we’ve put our company values into practice, and build a happy, engaging and productive company culture at Penquin:


1. Quarterly milestone programme:

Each quarter we set milestones which address the company’s goals, but also allow staff to identify areas in which  they’d like to develop their skills. A big focus for these milestones is placed on learning and each staff member needs to include at least one learning goal - either a hard or a soft skill. These milestones are linked to key performance indicators and quarterly incentives to motivate staff to achieve their (and Penquin’s) goals.

2. What’s in it for you:

Our “what’s in it for you” exercise helps staff to see the bigger picture. We all know what our companies get out of employing us, but sometimes we forget what we get out of it personally. During this exercise, staff are encouraged to answer questions like:

- What’s in it for me? What do I gain from my employment at Penquin?
- What do I want to achieve during my employment?
- Who else (e.g. family) will benefit if I achieve these goals?
- How will I feel if I achieve my goals?
- What will I need to change in order to achieve my goals?
- Describe your success? How does my success look in 5 years time?

After answering these questions, the answers are turned into word clouds which we display in the office to remind everyone why we get up every morning, work long hours and strive to help the company hit its targets.

3. Incentives:

Apart from our quarterly and sales incentives, we also run themed and departmental incentives. The top performing team is awarded a team building outing, like laser tag or paintball, which is coupled with a learning experience. At our last laser tag outing, Kevin Horsley (world memory championship medalist) joined us and gave a presentation on memory mastery.

4. Inbound 2017:

This year one of our incentives is a trip to Boston, USA to attend HubSpot’s annual Inbound conference. The conference offers over 250 educational sessions over the course of four days and is a great opportunity to combine travel with a learning experience.


5. Our staff are involved in decision making:

We’ve found that involving our staff in the process of creating procedures motivates them to show initiative, be innovative and take responsibility for projects. Management mentor junior staff members, helping them to develop skills within their roles and giving them the opportunity to choose which areas of the business interest them most, creating a clear pathway for growth within the company.

6. Café le Penquin:

Café le Penquin (CLP) is a staff get together that takes place on the last Friday of every month. We kick off the afternoon at 3pm with announcements, welcoming new staff, and celebrating promotions, anniversaries and birthdays. We then move on to snacks and drinks, spending the next few hours catching up with everyone’s news and unwinding from the stresses of the month.

7. St. Patrick’s Day:

For St. Patrick’s day our team dressed in green and decorated the office with leprechauns, four leafed clovers and pots of gold. We were lucky enough to have one of our talented graphic designers draw a leprechaun mural on our chalk wall to add to the holiday spirit. After lunch, the whole team gathered for Irish coffee’s and Guinness in the touchdown area.



8. Coffee Kuier:

For Valentine’s day this year, we partnered up our staff and gave them a list of five questions to ask each other. We set aside an hour in everyone’s diaries, to sit together over coffee and biscuits, and share the answers with our partners.

9. Secret Santa:

Each year at Christmas time, we run secret Santa where everyone draws a random name and is responsible for getting an anonymous gift for their selected colleague.


Your company culture can’t be separate from the results you want to achieve.

When building your company culture, you need to keep in mind that your staff are not always able to separate their personal and professional lives. Life happens. We, as employers, need to build a culture where we acknowledge our employees’ every day struggles, and give them the support they need to get back on track, so that they can continue to perform at their best in the workplace.

Motivating your staff is a constant challenge because you need to find the right balance between responsibility, accountability, fun and understanding.


Contact us if you’d like us to help you strategise an incentive for your staff.

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