How to Motivate Your Employees without Money

According to a recent Gallup Poll survey, roughly 70% of employees across the country either dislike their jobs or don’t really care about the work they perform on a daily basis. However, most must still come to work everyday to pay bills and take care of their families. But just because they come to work does not mean they are giving their best performance. Their bodies may be present at their desk, but their hearts and minds are far from their work.

What does this mean for managers, leaders and business owners? Lost productivity, lackluster customer service (if employees don’t care about their work, they won’t care about customers) low morale, and ultimately lower profits.

Managers and leaders must understand that employees need a reason to come to work and bring their best performance. That reason has to be more than a paycheck. If not, managers and leaders run the risk of creating “paycheck employees,” who only come to work for a paycheck, or “transactional employees,” who only perform work they are paid, nothing more or less and won’t do more unless they are paid more.     

Listed below are three actions managers and leaders can take immediately to create a workplace environment where employees are engaged and want to give their best performance: 

1. Connect with employees on a personal level
This does not mean you become best friends with employees or learn their deepest secrets. It does mean knowing what’s important to them, including family, advancement, job security, or going back to school. It also means knowing their personal goals, hobbies, interests, and what they ultimately are working for and trying to become as a working professional.

There is a successful hotel manager in Las Vegas who accomplishes this by taking new team members out to lunch. During lunch, she asks one of the most important questions a manager or leader can ask, “what are the two most important things to you?” She then takes a mental note of their response or writes it down and places it in their employee file for future reference.

2. Deliver praise and recognition weekly
Workplace morale is just like a muscle, it must be exercised at least weekly to stay strong and healthy. I recently conducted a leadership seminar in New York City and when I informed the audience about how much they should praise and recognize employees, one manager responded, “What! That means I have to start making stuff up.” This manager thought the paycheck and just having a job was enough praise and recognition for his employees. Now of course we should not make things up, we must be genuine with our feedback. It may be helpful to think about praising and recognizing the “small stuff.” For example, a few ways to recognize mediocre performers is noticing their positive attitude, perfect attendance, willingness to work late and improve, or praising small incremental progress toward achieving their goals.

3. Positive reinforcement
Managers and leaders often do not recognize their employees until they underperform or do something wrong. However, when their employees do things well, they say things such as, “they are paid to do those things anyway.” The most effective leaders understand why we should praise and recognize employees for doing what they are paid to do anyway; we want them to keep doing it.

Can you imagine going to a professional football game and watching a team score a touchdown and nobody clapped? Suppose the audience’s response for not clapping was “they are paid millions to do that anyway.” You would be hard-pressed to attend such a game because the audience will clap to encourage the players to keep doing what they are paid to do. Managers and leaders must have the same mentality of football fans and clap for their team players so they will keep performing desired behaviors and stay inspired to bring their best performance to work everyday.

5 thoughts on “How to Motivate Your Employees without Money

  1. Clara Palma

    This article is really very enthusiastic and interesting. Actually I did not think like this before as he thought but the thing is true that we must need recognition in every sphere of life, from home to workplace, that i believe. For example, in a team, I am the team leader and did not co-operative to other members by thinking that this is their duty and responsibility. In that case they would be recognized by me and get dishearten that may be the big problem in the long run. Therefore, I think we should focus on the recognition part of an employee or members that they really deserve.

  2. Natasha

    Great post. I agree that the key to increasing engagement is to make sure that your team mates are doing work that they love and then feel appreciated for the unique work that they do.


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