10 Ways To Motivate Employees Without Breaking The Bank

What gets you motivated, encouraged, and fired up every day when it comes to your job and where you work?

Is it money? Is it helping people? Is it working together with co-workers to accomplish something meaningful? Or is it something else?

What motivates you might not motivate your co-workers. Everyone is different, and everyone needs and wants different things. This makes motivation in the workplace complicated and difficult to decipher. To effectively motivate your employees, you need to understand them and know how they think and act. Everyone has different Social Styles, and everyone responds in different ways to people and situations. Understanding your employees’ Social Styles and what makes them tick can help you understand what motivates them.

Obviously, a big motivator for everyone is money, which can be given through bonuses and raises. Everyone likes extra money, especially when it comes from their work. Bonuses and raises show your employees they are valued and appreciated, and it can increase employee engagement and motivation.

But what happens when you aren’t able to give your employees a raise or a bonus?

What do you do? Do you give them nothing and say, “Maybe next year?”

Believe it or not, there are ways to engage and motivate your employees without giving them a raise or a bonus. In fact, we’ve identified 10 effective ways you can do this without breaking the bank.

1. Recognition

Everyone likes to be recognized for their achievements. It doesn’t matter if you’re an intern, a CEO, or anywhere in between, being praised for your work always feels good.

A survey by David Novak and Harvard Business Review found that 82 percent of employed Americans feel that their contributions aren’t recognized enough by their managers, and 40 percent say they would be more engaged and motivated if they received more recognition.

When one of your employees does something extremely well or consistently performs at a high level, tell everyone about it. Give them the credit and recognition they deserve, and spread the word. This doesn’t cost anything, but can do wonders for your employees’ motivation. This could be an email to the team about the employee, or even a company-wide message. Whatever method you use, do it loudly and with gratitude. This shows the employee that they’re doing a good job, and their work is valued and appreciated.

2. Rewards

Even when you can’t give bonuses or raises, you can still give other kinds of rewards. They don’t have to be monetary rewards at all!

Take this study for example:

Ann C. Dzuranin, an assistant professor at Northern Illinois University, and Nathan Stuart, an associate professor at the University of Wisconsin, Oskosh, observed a group that was performing for cash incentives and another group that was performing for non-cash incentives. The non-cash incentive group outperformed the cash incentive group, and also exhibited greater commitment and motivation.

This shows that you don’t necessarily have to reward your employees with money, and in fact, it may be better if you don’t. These non-cash incentives could be more PTO, food, gift cards, credits in the company store to buy company apparel, free company merchandise, etc.

Think about these rewards like a good gift. What would your employees want? Don’t be afraid to think outside the box and come up with creative, unique rewards, like concert tickets, tickets to local attractions, gym memberships, books, conferences, etc.

3. Hours

Another thing you can do to motivate your employees is to allow more flexible hours.

A FlexJobs survey of more than 1,500 workers found that 74 percent wanted flexible work options in order to maintain a healthy work-life balance.

With this flexibility comes a different way of thinking, and organizations need to also be flexible in changing their ways. Creating a way for employees to log hours outside of the standard eight to five shift can be beneficial for your organization as a whole and your employees. By allowing flexibility, you’re allowing your employees to manage their personal lives even more, and it shows that you trust them to get their work done on their unique schedule.

4. Work From Home

Does your organization let employees work from home? If you employ a big chunk of millennials, then pay attention to the following statistics.

When it comes to millennials, 77 percent believe flexible work hours and working remotely would make them more productive. While this may seem counterintuitive, millennials like to work when and where they’re comfortable and focused.

However, it’s not just millennials that want to work from home. According to Gallup, 43 percent of Americans worked remotely at some point in the last year, and by 2020 mobile workers will account for 72 percent of the total U.S. workforce.

Before you give working from home the green light, make sure you have the right technology in place to support it. Having the right technology goes a long way, and you may already have some of them in place.

Working from home is a great benefit to offer your employees, and can offer that motivation and boost they need to keep going.

5. Letter From CEO

Have you ever received a letter or email from a CEO? How did it make you feel?

Chances are it made you feel appreciated and important. A personalized letter from your CEO, letting an employee know his or her hard work hasn’t gone unnoticed is another key way to keep employees engaged without spending a cent.

When the CEO knows your name and who you are, and thinks that you are doing a great job, you feel accomplished. Something as simple as this can boost employee productivity.

But, word of warning, don’t force this or forge it. If it becomes a normal thing for the CEO to send a letter to everybody, then it won’t be important to anybody. Make this a rare occurrence to give it special meaning.  

6. Throw a Party

It really doesn’t cost too much money to throw an office party. Whether it’s at the end of the busy season, an appreciation for their hard work, or for no reason at all, parties at work show that you value a fun work environment, where employees can let off some steam and get to know each other a little more.

A party doesn’t have to be fancy or huge. Simply open up the breakroom or a meeting room, provide some food and drinks, and you’re set.

7. Constant Feedback

Recognizing hard work is great, but consistently giving feedback and giving praise may be even better for your employees.

Forty-two percent of millennials want some type of feedback every week. Make sure you’re giving your employees consistent and frequent feedback about how they’re doing and how they could continue to improve.

At the end of the day, employees want to know that the work they’re doing is effective, important, and impactful. Giving them feedback constantly turns it from a one-time thing into never-ending improvement that will continually motivate employees to elevate their performance.

8. Regular Manager Meetings

Constant feedback is accompanied with consistent meetings between employees and their managers.

And this can boost engagement: 44 percent of millennials who report their manager holds regular meetings with them are engaged at work.

This keeps employees and managers on the same page, and offers a safe space to talk through things, be encouraged, and be heard.

9. Offer Professional Development

Another way to motivate employees is to offer professional development and coaching. Along with expanding their knowledge, it also gives them insight into other areas they may be interested in.

According to Gallup, 87 percent of millennials say professional development is important for their job, and 69 percent of non-millennials agree, too. Recognizing their talents by sending them to a conference or seminar improves confidence and supplements their expertise.

You can also provide training sessions within your organization. These can be facilitated by an outside company or by internal employees, and help your employees improve and have the necessary tools to do their jobs effectively.

10. Team-Building Events

The last way to motivate your employees doesn’t have much to do with work at all. Promoting or planning team-building events that take place outside of the office can improve your employees’ morale drastically. These events could be happy hours at a local restaurant or bar, or even something more complicated like photo scavenger hunts. It may be as simple as volunteering as a team, or attending a business event together. Whatever you plan, these events allow employees to get to know each other better, and keeps them involved and invested in their team.

Fun can be Free

Even if your organization’s budget is small and there isn’t much extra cash for raises or bonuses, you can still implement fun and unique ways to engage your employees. Use these 10 tips in your workplace, and see how your employees react. Does it boost morale, make them happy, and keep them motivated? I think it will. These tips aren’t ground breaking, but they hardly cost you anything at all to do, and can do more for your organization than a raise or a bonus would.

How do you motivate and engage your employees?


Katie Roth

Katie Roth has been in a leadership role in the employment industry for the majority of her career. Currently, she is Manager, Talent Acquisition for Oasis, a Paychex® Company. Katie is a graduate of the University of Iowa and is certified by both the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM), as a Senior Professional in Human Resources, and the National Association of Personnel Services, as a Certified Personnel Consultant (CPC).


September 27, 2017

Posted by

Katie Roth