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Think like marketeers to appeal to the individuals in your team

Marc TimmermanAxiom works with some of the world’s largest organisations, helping them understand their culture more deeply so that they can dynamically adjust during times of change.

His advice to company owners is to stop steering sheep and instead start herding cats, by recognising that times are changing. The implicit needs of the individual, he says, need to be just as important as those of the team.

“We have been going through a massive culture change in the world of work for a few years now,” he says. “The need for companies to adapt their recruitment and retention strategy is stronger than ever right now: it’s become a much more deep, specific process.”

“We used to look at explicit motivations - money, promotion, clients etc., as the benchmarks of success,” he continues. “What is the salary, the bonus scheme, the client portfolio, the career path? This has changed hugely. These are not the priorities of this changing workforce. Younger generations in particular have very different life expectations. Instead of looking at explicit motivations that can be applied en-masse, we need to look at the implicit motivations of each individual.”

An implicit motivation has traditionally been defined as a non-conscious driver to behaviour - and the same motivations are not shared by all. Where some seek to master challenging tasks on their own for example, others derive pleasure from helping others to complete tasks. There have been studies into implicit and explicit motives for decades, but examining how they can shape the world of work is a relatively recent phenomenon - and it’s a subject Marc finds fascinating.

“It shapes the entire culture,” he says. “Where once it was location, age, or religion that created a culture (in or outside of a workforce), it is now something much deeper. At Axiom we are encouraging our clients to work with their employees, to discover their implicit drivers. We are drilling down into this and discussing the need to find them, understand them and then appeal to them, as it could make a huge change to output and growth, as well as overall brand. People with the same implicit motivations tend to unconsciously seek each other out. This can then help create the company culture - and therefore the brand personality.”

The key, he says, for HRs and CEOs to help create a culture of individuals while maintaining the overall brand of the company - and then allowing the employees to help shape it.

So what needs to change? This approach means training managers to step back, helping them to be more collaborative, agile and accessible. Marc points out that many companies still operate under a ‘one size fits all’ HR approach, but advises that by doing this and still focusing on system and policy, they are missing the intrinsic needs of the individual. Even methods from the 1990s are now looking clunky: in everyone’s best efforts to reduce inequality, many companies have started to treat everyone exactly the same. Which, ironically, is now the new inequality.

“People don’t want to be treated the same,” he says. “They want to be individuals, with a bespoke employment that works for them and their lifestyle.”

This goes beyond the employment package. As we know, an increasingly global workforce, new generations of workers and a better utilisation of fast developing tech, all mean things like flexible working should not be viewed as perk any more; they are pre-requisites. What CEOs and HRs need to do, Marc asserts, is think like marketeers, to understand the traits of workers and help them be the drivers.

“Marketeers analyse the individual needs of the customer and create campaigns to attract and retain them,” he says. “HRs need to look at the different needs and goals of each individual within their company. Some industries will find this more difficult than others: manufacturing and medicine for example, have very different logistical needs to tech and leisure. But regardless of the industry, HRs need to create bespoke employment programmes to attract and retain the best people, in the same way that marketeers attract the right customers for their clients.”

On a basic level, Marc advises that it means simple things like providing instant feedback (the Twitter generation works on a much more immediate level) and recognising that empowerment is not a piece of paper or a good review meeting; it’s an attitude that pervades throughout the company - one of collaboration and respect, regardless of age.

This concept has been around in Europe for a few decades, and is used to great success in many areas. Empowering people to work together and solve their own problems rather than seek out their boss, means teams will grow more organically and more positively, seeking out strengths they lack in others. Management is encouraging employees to be individuals, while letting them find their common implicit motivations.

Marc’s conclusion is simple: “This change is now really gathering pace and companies looking to maintain a top-down control system will quite simply find themselves left behind.

“If forward-looking organisations want to attract the most successful high potential candidates, then it is clear that their HR teams need to start thinking less like HRs – they need to get to know the individual implicit motivations of their people and start thinking more like PRs.”