motivating employees

How To Manage People With Low Ambition

How do you manage people who have no interest in learning new skills, or advancing their careers?

When I talk about low ambition, I want to clarify that I am not referring to poor performers. I am referring to people who may be really good at what they do or may be in highly-skilled roles – but they are happy where they are in their careers – they’ve learned the skills needed to do their jobs well, and they don’t wish to add to their responsibilities by climbing further up the corporate ladder. In fact, if you think about the people in your teams, you’ll realize that not everyone is willing to learn new skills even if it will help them advance their careers.

In this video, I share some insights to help you manage and motivate such employees.

You may ask, why should I be bothered if they are happy where they are right now. The challenge with managing people with low ambition is how to keep them motivated so that they continue to deliver high-quality work and not just go through the motions. Since they may not be motivated by learning opportunities, greater responsibility, or challenging projects, so you will want to have a strategy in place to ensure that they stay motivated.

Another challenge with such people is around loyalty and retention. If they have no ambition to build their careers or to progress through the organization, then they’re more likely to jump ship if they’re not enjoying their work. This can be disruptive for your organization. Employee turnover has related costs.

So, what can you do?

Start by examining your own assumptions about your team members, because your perception about them affects the way that you behave with them. For instance, if you believe that someone is simply coming to work to earn a paycheck, then you may unconsciously adopt an authoritarian management style with them.

To help you get a more realistic understanding of your team member’s motivation drivers, you would want to take interest in them and build a relationship. The more you know about their personal lives and goals, the better you’ll be able to structure rewards that keep them motivated.

Understanding where their fundamental needs stem from in Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs will allow you to customize your motivational approach for maximum impact.

I also find that McClelland’s Motivation Theory works well. According to this theory, people have different dominant motivators. These are:
• Needs for achievement
• Need for affiliation
• Need for power

Once you know which is the dominant motivator for your team members, you can structure their work and rewards effectively.

For someone who has low ambition, you may want to explore what they find meaningful and where they think they will enjoy their work more. For some people, moving up into roles with more responsibility may not be the best way forward. Instead moving laterally into a field that excites them and uses their talents better would be more beneficial.

Having control over what we do is a major source of job satisfaction for most people. Whenever possible, give your employees the opportunity to choose their tasks and projects. The more control they have over their work, the more they’ll own, and take responsibility for, their tasks.

Another reason why someone is low on ambition could be that they lack confidence in their own abilities. Doing what you can to boost their confidence can be a great motivator, and can lead to significantly increased productivity. Recognition and appreciation for a job well done can be an incredible motivator.

People with low ambition are often responsible for doing work that everyone else in the organization considers “low status.” If this is the case in your team, make sure that they are treated equally, especially when it comes to company perks and recognition programs.

Investing your time and energy in your team can help build their capabilities and also their vision of where they can possibly go. That’s a win-win situation.

Want to discuss a challenge you’re facing with your management team? Click on the Request Consultation button above or email


How do you attract the best people AND then make sure they stick around and stay motivated

As anyone in HR would tell you, this is a continuous process; it is not a one-time solution or package that you can offer employees, but a long-term, deep-rooted organisational culture that ensures employees at all levels stay constantly engaged and motivated.

A big part of this process is career development.

Employees across the board, especially the millennials, understand that to grow and scale the corporate ladder they need to offer more value for money – i.e., additional skills, more experience or a mature and strategic thought process – some of these come with time and some need to be developed – but they all need the employer’s support.

Whether it is offering your team opportunities to stretch their minds and resources or giving them time to study further or offering in-house skill-building opportunities – the organisation is the first port of call for an employee’s career development. Almost all employees look internally for professional growth opportunities, and when they don’t find it, they eventually leave!

You are probably thinking – “hey, we know all this! But there is only so much we can do with our budgets and resources.”

Agreed! It is not our intention to teach you your job, what we hope to do instead is highlight some companies that are implementing this successful programme – to maybe leave you a bit inspired for your next L&D meeting!

So, without further ado, here are a few career development initiatives we really liked –

Successful Career Development Initiatives

1. Pixar, AT&T, and Schneider Electric

Why we like them: Huge investment in creating university-style learning environment and infrastructure for all employees.

All these three global giants have invested a serious amount of time, money and thought into developing huge learning centers for their employees.

While at Pixar the focus remains on fostering creative thinking, at the AT&T University the scope is broader, and they have achieved this by partnering with well-known online and physical universities; all employees can choose from a large variety of courses developed in partnership with Georgia Tech and Udacity Inc.

At the other end of the spectrum is Schneider Electric; they have created a learning center that is very specific to their domain and offers over 200 courses on energy efficiency and data centers.

2. Culture Amp

Why we like them: The initiative lies with the employees, and it’s not all about professional learning – the initiatives are really about what the employee wants not what’s best for the company.

Culture Amp has really given the responsibility of learning to the people along with the tools. They have two great programmes which can be implemented by companies of all sizes –

Coaching for Everyone – Every single employee is provided with sessions with an executive coach or a life coach at 6, 12 and 24 months and they can use these sessions for anything they like – professional or personal issues.

Learn Yourself Up – a quarterly budget for training is open for all to use – for anything they like. Employees pay for a part of the course fees – a smaller percentage for professional courses and a higher one for a personal one. But again, it can be anything they like.

3. Optoro

Why we like them: Employees are given budgets to use as they see fit.

Optoro offers its employees an annual professional development budget that they can use – in conjunction with their managers – to further their professional skills.

They also provide skills-based seminars on a plethora of topics the whole year round and actively encourage all employees to participate in the conferences, organizations and learning programs that will keep them expanding their professional knowledge.

4. Amazon

What we like: No questions asked, equal opportunity for all

If you have been an Amazon employee for at least one year then you are eligible for a course worth $12000!

The Career Choice Program by Amazon pre-pays 95% of tuition and fees for certificates and associate degrees in areas that are in high demand, such as aircraft mechanics, computer-aided design, machine tool technologies, medical lab technologies, nursing, and so on – regardless of whether they have any relevance to work at Amazon!


We doubt there is any organisation out there, large or small, that is not working hard to engage and motivate employees to the best of their abilities and budgets.

But, it is easy to get caught up in the business of running an organisation; of meeting targets and deadlines. Which is why you need to remember these three things –

  1. Employees WANT to be good at their work and they WANT the resources to do better.
  2. Career Development planning doesn’t have to be expensive, time-consuming or very elaborate – but it has to be meaningful.
  3. If you don’t fulfil the development aspirations of your employees, the most talented of them will leave. And this will cost you in the long run.

Whether you have a robust L&D programme or are just starting to put down the foundation of your career development policies, it always pays to understand the needs and aspirations of your employees and this is where we can help.

To know more click the Request Consultation button above.


Struggling to keep your millennial employees motivated?

Discover how to keep your new-age workforce engaged and loyal.

Motivating, retaining and keeping your employees happy and engaged will always be a priority for the entire management, not just HR but for anyone who manages a team.

As the new generation of Millennials enters the workforce in large numbers, to create a productive environment, policies and engagement models need to align with their way of thinking.

How does a millennial approach work?                 

With high expectations, high energy and high self-confidence – millennials approach work very differently from the baby boomer generation! They are extremely comfortable working in teams and in flatter organisations, love to multi-task and, of course, are completely at ease with digital technology.

For the millennial – aware of global situations – civic responsibility is quite important; they don’t just want to do well but also do some good!

Creativity and innovation is also something they value highly at the workplace. Being able to come up with new ideas, processes, products or services is important for them, and a company with a culture of encouraging an individual’s talents gets an instant thumbs up.

How can companies retain and integrate millennials to grow their businesses?

46% of the workforce will be made up of Millennials by 2020! While we need to engage and retain them, we also cannot afford to ignore the other 54% of older employees.

While some motivating factors remain true across ages – money, responsibility, and appreciation – generational viewpoints differ on the specifics. It has become clear that a one-size-fits-all engagement policy is not entirely effective in organisations with a mix of age groups and generations.

Here are some initiatives that can be targeted towards Millennials and also appeal to the Gen-Ys:

Flexible Working Solutions

Work-life balance is cited as the number one factor for choosing a job according to this study by Deloitte. This can be done by breaking down the traditional workday and offering flexible working hours. The idea is to prioritise deadlines and outcomes over putting in a set number of hours.

With so much technology, there is no reason to be rigidly chained to the desk anymore – allowing employees to choose their work times can go a long way in keeping them happy.

Continuous Feedback & Appraisals

Usually, the organisational appraisal policies are annual or bi-annual at best. With millennials, there is a demand for more regular and constructive feedback.

This is a generation that wants to know where they stand and are looking for ways to improve – for this continuous and constructive feedback is important. This small but essential change to the appraisal structure can go a long way to make millennials – and indeed everyone in the company – more productive.

Quicker Promotions or Incentive Schemes

The organisational structure where they have to wait years for a promotion is seen as demotivating by most millennials.

While some organisations cannot create new titles or change promotion policies, performance bonuses, training opportunities and some forms of recognition always help create a sense of achievement and progress which highly coveted by everyone regardless of their age.

Social / Community Building Programmes

According to the 2014 Millennial Impact Report, 94% of millennials want to use their professional skills to benefit a cause.

A great way to harness this energy is to involve them in CSR activities. A company that is seen as a socially conscious organisation is sure to appeal to the millennial worker.

More Learning & Development Opportunities

Almost all organisations have L&D policies and matching budgets to facilitate their projects. Millennial employees value skill enhancement and advancement, and a generous L&D HR policy would certainly make an organisation seem more attractive.

Over decades HR policies have worked with some of the ideas mentioned above – L&D and Incentive Schemes have figured in HR and Management discussions for years. The challenge is to adapt these existing policies to meet the expectations of the new generation of employees.

At the end of the day, it doesn’t matter if you are a 20-year-old fresher or a 60-year-old approaching retirement, we all want the same things in life – we want to take care of our families, succeed at work, leave behind a legacy and enjoy ourselves – the only difference is how we approach this key human wants.

If you are looking for ways to engage your employees, then we can certainly help. We can help you devise strategies that can foster real engagement and across all organization levels. Click on the Request Consultation button above.