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10 reasons for inspiration


Stefano Mantovani, Head of HR UniCredit Bank Ukraine

If you put aside the material category of motivation - salary, bonuses, gifts, then you will be surprised to discover that most of the factors that really "drive" at work - are intangible. It is something akin to happiness - when you have it, you just feel it. But the same as with happiness, inspiration means different things for each person. To analyze what inspires our employees, we conducted a brief research with about 150 colleagues taking part.

Thus we have identified 10 reasons for inspiration. Almost all of them are intangible motivators which are often being neglected, although the returns and the effect of them are undoubtedly longer and more substantial. So here they are:

Open and easy-going top management

This point is comes first not by chance. In fact, if we based on the employees survey only, we should have placed it just below. Why the top management? Top managers have a very powerful and large-scale impact on the entire company. Just like all the important decisions and tasks are being delegated from the upper executive management to the staff, similar happens with cascading principals of interaction, management style, corporate standards. If the top manager is non-communicant and used to aggressive business management, this style gradually comes down to the mid-level managers and covers the entire company. For achieving results such style of management involves only the second part of the carrot and stick approach leaving no room for inspiration. According to Klaus Kobjoll, 99% of employees want to do the job well. How do they carry it out, depends on who they work for. One can hardly debate this. It is better to simply analyze whether the top management aims to inspire his team, if he pays any attention to this issue and to take the necessary measures. Due to their status and weight in the company the top managers serve as a role model. Once they slightly correct their behavior in the right way it would bring an impressive effect.

Certainly, the employees are inspired by openness of the top managers and their willingness to accept the employees’ ideas, humanity, attention, friendliness and easiness in communication, equal respect to everyone. For example, we practice the principle of "open doors" - in the literal and figurative sense. We strive to establish a dialogue between the employees and the top management, we organize "coffee with a top manager", visits of the executives to the branches, training for employees with participation of top managers etc. And on March 8 male executives always visit all 4 Head offices and personally congratulate every woman. That is about 1200 ladies! These activities require minimal resources, but provide a high level of inspiration for the team.


People are a limitless source of inspiration. Our research has shown that for many employees the community plays a key role in the level of satisfaction at work place. Colleagues’ support, mutual overcoming of difficulties, common goals, aspirations and achievements provide a strong positive spirit. The internal corporate culture that creates an atmosphere and largely determines the behavior of people contributes greatly to this. When a newcomer appears in the team, he gradually penetrates the existing corporate culture, taking over the manner of communication and interaction. On the other hand, each new person brings in something particular to the corporate culture, thus changing it. Therefore, an important role is played by the HR professionals who apart from the required competencies of each candidate should also consider his/her matching the corporate values.

Ample opportunities

The desire for something greater lies at the heart of many achievements. This is a very powerful motivator. And it is great if the company supports those employees’ desire to develop themselves and build a career, helping to improve knowledge and skills. Such a supportive manner really encourages. The achievements of colleagues who rose out of the ordinary employees to leadership positions serve as an inspiration for others as well. In this regard, the task of HR-professionals is to offer an employee a personal development plan, adjusting it at each stage. Regular feedback from managers perfectly helps to outline the career opportunities, which gives the employee a vision of further career steps and a sense of attention and of being cared about.

The cross-functional movements are the great alternative to vertical career growth, which is not always available to an employee. We actively use this method in our company. It provides employees with greater prospects for growth, including those at the international level. Such an approach allows us to protect our people from staffing cut and find candidates for the most of the opened positions using internal reserves.

Leaders but not bosses

There are so many instructions on how to shift the boss category into leader’s one, and, unfortunately, not so many bosses are willing to take advantage of this knowledge. To inspire is probably harder than to manage, though the effect is much more prominent. In the frames of cross-functional project we proposed several managers to occupy positions in other business lines, where they were able to show their leadership qualities. Based on the annual people survey results, we have observed a significant growth of loyalty to the bank in these divisions. Thus indeed the leader can become one of the drivers for the team.

What can the leader inspire by? By trying to listen and hear subordinates, to solve complex problems together, to stand firm for the team members, to show empathy, instill confidence, to motivate and help develop, to trust, to see people but not just staff units, to treat everyone with respect and to command respect to name a few.

Challenges and opportunity to embody own ideas

According to our survey, many of us find inspiration in complicated or "fresh" tasks that require considerable efforts and new knowledge, research, analysis, teamwork. Here the processes itself and the final result boost interest. Sense of personal contribution to the common cause and understanding of the importance of the work done are two really strong incentives. Awareness on this aspect can bring the company sound dividends. The main thing is to clearly define those who consider challenge as a driver, "hand" this challenge in and reap the benefit of it.

Equally the opportunity to embody one’s own ideas is in brisk demand. Every company possess many talents, people with unusual vision, creative abilities and desire to change. Their inspiration lies in the capacity to create. The company's mission is only to listen to employees’ offers actively, to organize the process of "sifting" the ideas out, to give some freedom of action and to control results at some stages.

Tolerance to mistakes

Sometimes all employees, especially the pioneers and creators, inspired by working on new projects, inevitably make mistakes. Therefore it is important to convert the possibility to make a mistake from the "mortal sin" category into the scope of “ordinary for business process issues”. The effectiveness of the corporate culture lies in allowing employees to learn through errors, but not punishing them for that. A faint heart never wins a fair lady. Probably an employee will hunker down  to do more, willing to take a chance and try to go on a new path in case employee feels the boss’ or mentor’s support and assistance in the tasks implementation, rather than anticipating some fallouts of the unsuccessful attempt.

Recognition and rewards

It is important to bear in mind the necessity of recognizing and rewarding employees. The lack of these actions leads to staff demotivation. Enthusiasm alone won’t be enough for solving large or complex problems. Therefore, to maintain the inspiring atmosphere it is necessary to find time and resources for employees’ recognition and reward. Again, it is not merely and purely about financial remuneration, it is just about intangible bonuses like positive feedback, public praise, inclusion in the pool of company’s talents, invitation to participate in useful training. There are many options - the main thing is not to miss the chance to express gratitude to the staff.

Opportunity to help others

The sense of importance and feeling of being wanted inspires many people. To help others is a good way to inspire oneself. This approach always requires interaction, communication, energy, involvement and commitment. But when giving, an employee definitely gets something in return. I'm talking not just about participation in volunteer initiatives, charitable projects and personal help that certainly serve as a good platform for potential realization of those who seek to help others. Here I have in mind, for example, mentoring when employees reveal a desire to contribute to the development of young professionals, or participation in cross-functional projects, where an employee can on a voluntary basis assist other divisions. By the way, the desire to help others, as a rule, serves not only to inspire, but also for career advancement. People, who are inspired by a chance to do a world of good or help others, are characterized by their pro-active attitude and vigour, which can’t go unnoticed and unmarked.

Confidence in future

The company's reputation, brand attractiveness, reliability and stability, strong market positions, competitiveness. All these factors in employee’s minds are transformed into "I am a part of a powerful company, and, therefore, I am strong, I can do it". The future and well-being of each of us depends on the employer’s stability. Especially nowadays, in a turbulent period, the company's ability to stand up to crisis is extremely important to the staff. People survey research for 2014 has proved this fact. UniCredit employees found stability and reliability in our bank against the backdrop of so many banks collapsing and the overall situation in the country. In numbers, the level of commitment to the company in 2014 increased by 7 points up to 82%.

Fair play

Trust is a fundamental category for building a healthy climate in a company. Integrity, transparency, business ethics and adherence to standards – these are the basis of doing business. The company should cultivate these qualities by its own example, leading a fair play both in terms of clients and the team. This is an important factor of employer brand. Regardless of the situation, the employee must have the knowledge that the company acts in accordance with the stated conditions, fulfills all obligations, takes social protection seriously, respects gender equality and diversity, and ensures equal opportunities for everyone. If the company does not, why bother with the other tips for inspiration? Any signs of injustice, deceit, double standards drive into despair human strivings or force to proceed similarly.


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