The ART of Stretch Strategies to Attract, Engage, Retain + Motivate People

By Tanya Lacy, Director of The Coaches Consortium

This article appeared in Issue 3#1 (November/December 2008) of Business Franchise Australia & New Zealand

Your franchise may experience occasions where people are tired, lacking enthusiasm and motivation. What do people need to engage and remain engaged with your business? What can you do that won’t cost you the earth? Tanya Lacy explores ‘stretch’ as the solution.

If reward and recognition are yet to become a natural and consistent part of your culture, then working a solid strategy of innovative experiences (that create stretch) is something worth considering from both the attract and retention angle. 

In a time of a skills shortage it’s crucial to differentiate your business when it comes to people. The costs associated with looking for new people are well documented.  In lean times, it’s important to ensure those you have on the team are contributing 100% and engaged in their roles.

Creating stretch within your existing staff, and infusing this in your culture, is one key people strategy worth looking at - particularly for young people. We hear from the market place that younger employees seek opportunities to express and expand themselves, and are not satisfied with money alone.  

A good place to start in developing stretch programs is to get curious about what makes your people fulfilled. What types of things interest them to expand their skills and talents? Be prepared that their answers may not seem to relate to your franchise at first glance. However, if you listen for the link, there will be ways to integrate these interests to attaining your business strategy and outcomes. 

What is a stretch program?  

A stretch program is activity in the business that is different to the typical day of your staff. While it is different, it still has key learnings that add value to the business.  

Our clients find a program such as ‘Intercept’ to be of value here, but there are many others you can select from or create when you put your mind to it (or even enrol your people to put their minds to it!).

A stretch program needs to challenge and involve and provides a new opportunity for visibility. With stretch strategies, you are looking to create experiences that take people out of their usual routines.   

Remember school excursions? There was a purpose to the outing and it created an experience that added a bonding element for the team along side the learning. 

  1. Your first aim is to find out what types of experiences would motivate and energise = Ideas + Design
  2. Your second aim is to link these into execution of your business’ strategy = Communication + Implementation

Ideas + Design on Stretch Programs 

Recording Each-other 

If you are a service based organisation, you can enrol your people to ‘visually’ record some practical interactions taking place, as team members perform their duties.  If this is set up correctly, it can be a great infusion of fun, laughter and team building and then be used for peer review. The idea is that fellow team members review the footage and give constructive feedback to the ‘filmed participant’. This serves as a learning tool as well as team building, and can also form part of progress review feedback coaching within your business. 

Role Swap

This takes some set up and organising, but is a sure fire way to experience walking in each other’s shoes. This achieves true role appreciation within the team as well as providing interest and stretch. You can set up a roster or an exchange week where everyone is forewarned and prepared, and has read up and prepared for the role swap as part of training. 

Nurture Innovation and Creativity

Creativity seems to dwindle when unused. If employees are rarely asked to think for themselves, they lose the will and ability to use their own initiative or contribute their good ideas.  They simply go through the motions, under motivated and disengaged. 

Managers and team leaders can help by asking for and rewarding creative ideas, giving employees the freedom and resources to create, and by challenging employees with tasks, activities, learnings and new assignments.  Encourage innovation and enhancement of your core business by utilising the talent of your people.  

Forum Teams 

Teams directed on their own or (self-directed work teams) can make a lot of their own decisions. They can distribute work in ways that increase variety and learning and that enhance the possibility of seeing tasks to completion. 

Mentoring, Coaching and Buddy Systems 

Your people want you to teach them the ropes – and they know their performance will suffer if you don’t. The person who is able to integrate mentoring, coaching and buddy-ing approach into everyday work practices finds a strong payback in employee loyalty and retention. 

Rotate the chair

When you have group meetings, share the chair. This puts everyone in the driver’s seat and shares the responsibility. Everyone has a chance to lead and use their skills and be stretched. 

Create a discussion in your business on different ways people like to be praised 

How do your people like to be praised?  Publicly? Privately? Specifically?  Spontaneously? In writing?  This conversation in itself will create stretch and team contribution and ownership in your business. 

What matters to you most? 

Have a fulfilment conversation. Ask people to share in forum what matters most to them. 

You will be very surprised with what you learn about the interests and passions of your people. You can use this to link to your business’ strategy and this will become a key motivating force for the people whose interests are reflected in the business direction. 

Using Space to Stretch 

Giving inner space to other people means that your business has to have a culture of trusting your talented employees, to manage their work effectively and to continuously improve the quality of their work and the way they work. This will stretch those who need constant direction and retain those who treasure space and freedom. 

Build a Library of Resources on Retention and Engagement Strategies 

A great book to start your library is called Love ‘Em or Lose ‘Em – Getting Good People to Stay, by Beverley Kaye and Sharon Jordan-Evans (Berrett-Koehler 1999).  Some of the ideas in this article are adapted from this fabulous book. 

Get a speaker or facilitator in generate a conversation about retention

Whatever you do, ensure there is a program design.  Ensure you have a map that clearly defines objectives.  Here are some questions the business can ask: 

  • Are we stretching people as a standard course of their employment or for going above and beyond the call of their role/for being on brand? 
  • How many opportunities will be issued and on what basis? 
  • How do we measure if this stretch activity has worked?  
  • Will this be limited to an individual or involve a team? 
  • Will there be sponsors involved?
  • What and who will be eligible? 
  • Is it for reward or stretch? 
  • Is this ongoing?  Or a one off?  

The designed intent of a program articulates and emphasises the work going into this opportunity and highlights the value you are placing on the person being stretched.  

Doing this on the run, diminishes the value to the person being stretched. Doing it on the run can be de-motivating, giving off the feeling that you are only going through the motions or applying bandaids rather than really caring. This happens a lot in business. Leaders and managers are busy and forget to put attention on the communication around these kinds of programs. 

Communication + Implementation 

Once you’ve decided stretch experiences are an opportunity for your franchise, the secret to successful implementation is to ensure the purpose behind them is clear and that the communication around the reason they are happening is clear. 

A sample might be:  “We are rolling out stretch to foster opportunities for you as valuable members of our business, we want to nurture and foster your capacity and keep you stimulated and fresh.”

When designing a stretch experience for your franchise, ensure that you have engaged the person you are working with and collaborated with them in the design.  Collaboration is the key. What you may consider a stretch, will not necessarily be a stretch to them. So conferring is essential for successful execution and good results.  

Ensure the communication around the program is clear. Who is to know about it? How does it integrate with the business’ other strategies? What mechanism’s are in place to grow it if it’s successful? Is it creative, engaging inspiring? 

How will the program be managed? How will this be rolled out from the high level and then who will administer or monitor this day to day? In terms of reviewing progress, how will the effectiveness of the program be reviewed? Have we achieved stretch in our business, people, and person? 

In Summary

Start with the end in mind. Seek feedback from your people as to what is meaningful to them.  Start with a choice of say six things that the business uses to stretch people. 

No matter how you adapt this stretch idea to your franchise, the key is connecting with your people in a way that is important to them.  

The trick then is linking the desires of your people as the positive energy to execute your business strategy. Get things aligned. This strengthens culture and demonstrates your specific interest in your people. You develop a reputation for being a people focussed business.  

In my view, stretch strategy can future proof your people strategy. Investing a little forethought, need not cost you the earth and can yield big returns in both people performance and profits.

Tanya Lacy is a founding Director of The Coaches Consortium, a franchised business system delivering the powerful Intercept coaching program.  With over a decade of delivering the Intercept Experience to companies, Tanya shares valuable insight, having worked with business leaders. 

For further information on the Intercept program visit for franchise enquiries for coaches and business operators