20 ways to motivate your employees
without raising their pay

By: Dave Worman, Dr. Motivation

It is a costly mistake to get lost in the false theory that more money equals happy employees.

Believing this is costing you valuable time, revenue, employees...and even threatening your own job. Cash will always be a major factor in motivating people and a solid compensation plan is critical to attracting and keeping key personnel. But the key is that additional cash is not always the only answer and in many cases not even the best answer.

Too many bonus or commission checks get cashed, spent and forgotten just that quickly. Grocery stores and gasoline stations are among the necessary stops that
seem to get in the way of using your extra cash on something special for you.

One alternative to giving commissions or bonus dollars is to give gifts through a catalog point system.

The company you choose will provide you with catalogs, price sheets and point checks at no charge. The structure for your bonus plan can remain the same but instead of awarding cash to your employees you award equivalent points. Those points may then be used to purchase an enormous variety of gifts or travel plans from the catalog.

The stimulation involved is long-lasting. It begins with the employee being able to browse the catalog choosing what they will strive to earn. The catalog acts as a tangible reminder of their goal. The gift itself will last as evidence of their achievements.

Whenever I have implemented this program, the employees are overwhelmingly in favor of the point system as opposed to cash. This type of program is very popular with employees because they purchase things they would never normally have the "money" to afford.

With solid compensation in place, let's look at non-monetary motivation...20 steps to success.

1. Recognition/Attention. When your employees accomplish something they have achieved something. Your recognition is appreciation for that achievement. I believe that most managers don't give enough recognition because they don't get enough. Therefore, it doesn't come natural to do it. If this applies to you, you need to drop this excuse like a bad habit! Become a giver! Look at the price. Recognition is free!

2. Applause. A form of recognition yes, but a very specific form. Physically applaud your people by giving them a round of applause for specific achievements. Where? When? The answer is wherever and whenever. At meetings or company-sponsored social gatherings, a luncheon, or in the office. At the end of a shift, before a shift, and whenever possible in the middle of a shift.

Using plaques or trophies is another effective way of applauding your people. Although "wooden applause" is often successfully used in the form of Employee of the Month plaques, more creative ideas are sorely underutilized. Take the time to be creative, matching special accomplishments with unique awards.

3. One-on-One Coaching. Coaching is employee development. Your only cost is time. Time means you care. And remember your people don't care how much you know... until they know how much you care.

Whenever the emphasis is on positive feedback, I make sure to do this coaching in "public." Whenever you recognize and encourage people in "public," it acts as a natural stimulant for others who are close enough to see or hear what's taking place.

4. Training. Is training ever finished? Can you possibly overtrain? NO and NO. For whatever reasons, too many people feel "My people have already been trained" or "I've got good people...they only need a little training." But training never ends. Schedule "tune- up" training sessions. These should be led by you or by a supervisor with help from specific employees who show a particular strength in the skills taught. I know this takes time, but these types of training sessions will continually enhance the performance of your people and the productivity of your business.

5. Career Path. Your employees need to know what is potentially ahead for them, what opportunities there are for growth. This issue is a sometimes forgotten ingredient as to the importance it plays in the overall motivation of people.

Set career paths within your organization. Do you promote from within? I hope you can answer yes to that. Although specific circumstances require you to look for talent outside your company you should always first consider internal personnel. If you do this you are sending a very positive message to every one that there are indeed further career opportunities within your organization.

6. Job Titles. When you talk about job titles you are tapping the self-esteem of people. How someone feels about the way they are perceived in the workforce is a critical component to overall attitude and morale. Picture a social gathering that includes some of your staff. The subject of work inevitably comes up. Will your people be proud, or embarrassed, to share their title and workplace? The importance of feeling proud of who you are and what you do is monumental.

Be creative as you think of possibilities for titles. Have your staff come up with ideas giving them input into the titles. Bottom line, you are dealing with pride...and pride enhances a positive attitude...and a positive attitude is the foundation for continuing success.

7. Good Work Environment. A recent industry study shows just how inaccurate your results can be. Employers were asked to rank what they thought motivated their people
and then employees were asked to rank what really did motivate them.

Employers felt "working conditions" was a nine (or next to last) in terms of importance. What did the employees say? Number two! Working conditions are very important to the way employees feel about where they work.

Cosmetically, does your office look nice? Are there pictures on the walls, plants and fresh paint among other features that generally make people feel good about their environment? Does their work space have enough room or are they cramped in a "sardine can?" What about furniture? Is the desk the right size, chair comfortable? Is there file space and do they have the miscellaneous office supplies needed for maximum performance? Is the temperature regulated properly so they don't feel they're in the Amazon jungle one minute and the North Pole the next?

8. On-the-Spot Praise. This too is associated with recognition but the key here is timing. When there is a reason for praising someone don't put it off for any reason! Promptness equals effectiveness. Praise people when the achievement is fresh on everyone's mind.

What is effective is for us to get off our keisters and go out and tell whoever it is what a great presentation it was or applaud them for the sale...praise them promptly for what they accomplished or achieved! Don't allow time to creep in and snatch away any ounce of the positive impact that praise can have when it is delivered promptly.

9. Leadership Roles. Give your people leadership roles to reward their performance and also to help you identify future promotable people. Most people are stimulated by leadership roles even in spot appearances. For example, when visitors come to your workplace use this opportunity to allow an employee to take the role of visitors guide.

A great place to hand out leadership roles is to allow your people to lead brief meetings. Utilize your employees' strengths and skills by setting up "tune up" training sessions and let one of your employees lead the training. The best time to do this is when new people start.

Or, assign a meeting leader after someone has attended an outside seminar or workshop. Have them lead a post show, briefing the other employees regarding seminar content and highlights.

Have your employees help you lead a project team to improve internal processes.

10. Team Spirit. Have a picture taken on your entire staff (including you!), have it enlarged and hang it in a visible spot. Most people like to physically see themselves as part of a group or team.

When running contests in your area, try to create contests and affiliated activity that are team driven. People driving to reach goals together definitely enhance team spirit solely because they must lean upon others and be prepared to be leaned on.

One very effective idea for me has been building a collage of creative ideas with the "Team" theme. All employees are responsible for submitting a phrase referring to TEAM on a weekly rotation. Each of these ideas (such as TEAM: Total Enthusiasm of All Members or There is no I in Team) is placed on a wall, creating a collage of Team-oriented phrases. Don't have one person responsible for this...do it as a team.

11. Executive Recognition. This is the secret weapon. And like any secret weapon, timing is most critical. If this is used too often the value is diminished. And if it is used only for special occasions and rare achievements the value is escalated. We talked earlier about general recognition and the positive impact that has on your people. That will go up a few notches when it comes from an executive. Some of the same vehicles can be used here such as memos and voice mail. To add yet another level of stimulation, have an executive either personally call to congratulate someone (or a group) or even show up in person to shake hands and express his or her appreciation.

12. Social Gatherings. Scheduled offsite events enhance bonding which in turn helps team spirit, which ultimately impacts your positive work environment. Halloween costume parties, picnics on July 4th, Memorial Day or Labor Day, and Christmas parties are only some of the ideas that successfully bring people together for an enjoyable time. Some others that I've used with equal success are softball games (against other companies or among employees, depending on staff size), groups going putt-putt golfing or movie madness.

13. Casual Dress Day. This will apply more to the Business-to-Business world based on the difference in normal dress codes from the Business-to-Consumer arena. For those required to "dress business" every day a casual day becomes a popular desire. Use holidays to create theme color casual days such as red and green before Christmas or red, white and blue before July 4th, or black and orange prior to Halloween. This will add to the impact you're trying to have by calling a casual day in the first place. Establish pre-vacation casual days for each individual employee to enjoy on the day before his or her vacation.

Major sports events are a perfect opportunity for casual days to support your local or favorite team with appropriate colors, buttons, and logo wear. Spontaneous casual days produce a lot or stimulation based on the element of surprise. Announce a casual dress day for the following work day "just because." Use individual or team casual dress days as contest prizes or awards for specific accomplishment.

14. Time Off. Implement contests that earn time off. People will compete for 15 minutes or 1/2 hour off just as hard as they will for a cash award. And in many cases, I have had people pick time off over cash when given the choice. Put goals in place (padded of course) and when these goals are reached by individuals, teams or the entire staff, reward them with time off. Allow early dismissals, late arrivals, and extended lunch periods or additional breaks.

15. Outside Seminars. Outside seminars are a stimulating break. Because outside seminars are not always cost efficient for most people, consider on-site seminars or workshops for your staff. Use outside seminars as a contest prize for one or two people. Then set up a structured plan for those seminar attendees to briefly recreate the seminar to the rest of your people when they return. Now everyone gets educated for the price of one.

16. Additional Responsibility. There are definitely employees in your organization who are begging for and can handle additional responsibility. Our job as managers is to identify who they are and if possible match responsibilities to their strengths and desires.

17. Theme Contests. Over the years my contests have produced up to 170% increase in performance. But equally as important, they've helped maintain positive environments that have reduced employee turnover by 400%.

Overall the most successful contests seem to be those affiliated with different themes. Holidays, anniversaries, sports and culture are examples of ideas to base contests on. Sports, without a doubt, provide the largest opportunity for a wide variety of contests. Even Culture can be used to create theme contest. My favorite is using the '50s and '60s as a theme for a contest that I run at least once a year.

18. Stress Management. There are many articles and books available on the subject. Make this reference material available to your people. Make sure they know it is available and encourage them to use it.

If possible, have an in-house seminar on stress management techniques. So that production time is not lost, you might consider having a brown bag luncheon with a guest speaker on this subject. Because stress is an ongoing concern, anytime is a good time for a seminar like this to take place.

Be as flexible as you can with breaks during the course of the day.

19. Pizza/Popcorn/Cookie Days. Every now and then pizza, popcorn, or cookie days will help break up that everyday routine and help people stay motivated. Because it is a natural tendency for people to get excited in anticipation of something, structure some of these days in advance. Then buy some pizzas or different cookies or even whip out some different types of popcorn.

20. Gags and Gimmicks. Use different gimmicks as awards to help inspire performance increases from your people. The key to awards is establishing the perception of priceless value that is associated with them. They should be recognized as status symbols in your environment. Here are some of my ideas:

  • Plastic/rubber whale for "whale" of a performance.
  • Pillsbury dough boy for the person raisin' the most bread.
  • Cardboard stars for star-studded performances.
  • Plastic phonograph records for setting a new record.
  • California raisins for those with the highest percentage of "raisin" their productivity.
  • Special parking space for the person who drives the hardest.
  • Toy cymbals for those "symbolizing" total effort.
  • Special Mountain Dew can for that person who exemplifies the "can do" attitude.
  • A figurine of E.T. for out-of-this-world performance.
  • The Eveready Bunny for those that keep going, and going, and going.
  • Large Tootsie Roll replica for those on a "roll."
  • A drum for the person that "drums" up the most business.


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