By: Katherine Muniz Mar 13, 2018

10 Free Ways to Motivate Employees

It’s stated time and time again that a business’s most valuable asset is their employees. Employees who are inspired, hard-working, and innovative grow and sustain businesses. Keeping employees happy and engaged is the secret to moving your business forward.  

So how can you ensure your employees are motivated? By offering a rewarding culture — which doesn’t have to be reliant on fiscal incentives. “When it comes to motivating employees, cash is king, but only for a short time,” says Daniel Freschi, President of EDGE, a leadership development partner. “Motivating and rewarding employees for their contributions can and should occur throughout the year.”  

Money talks but it isn’t the only motivator top companies are using. We gathered ideas from leaders and HR advisors on ways you can keep your team motivated. 

1. Offer flex time

“With increasing demands on family life and busy rush hours, introducing flextime can keep staff motivated by empowering them to work around hours that work for them and you,” says Michael Tillyer, Director of ST Resourcing, a recruitment company for the General Insurance and Financial Sevices market.

“Companies that are willing to offer occasional or part-time telecommute options to their employees may not see their overhead decrease much, but they will likely see the satisfaction of employees increase,” adds Robin Schwartz, Managing Partner of MFG Jobs. “The real reward when it comes to flexible work options is to the employee.”

2. Give praise

“Praise should be given as frequently as possible, and there are a couple ways to make it extra meaningful: Make sure it’s specific, rather than a general ‘great job,'” suggests Meg Hughes, an HR Consultant at Gray Scalable. “Make it public – a shout out in a team meeting, or an email where others are copied is a great way to make someone feel recognized for their good work.”

If you’re looking for innovative suggestions, apparel company INTO THE AM publically shares transparent, open praise by projecting it onto a 10-foot high screen on the front wall of their office. “We also do a monthly town hall meeting recognizing the major wins of each department followed by free lunch and games,” says Hiring Manager Darren Schreher.

3. Respect their ideas

“If you can show an employee that they are a valued and important member of the team it goes a long way,” says Brandon Giegling, Leader and President of Parkway SleepHealth Centers. “This can be done by getting their input on big decisions or projects and allowing them to take part in higher up meetings. Most importantly, is showing your employees you care about them and that they make a difference. It goes further than people think to know that you are needed.”

4. Add employee incentives

There are plenty of incentive ideas you can adopt within your organization to recognize and reward employees.

For instance, you can orchestrate a ‘thank you’ moment from a higher level leader. “Arrange for a leader one or two levels above you to stop and say thank you,” suggests Freschi.”Your employee will feel recognized for sure.”

Another privilege employees will want to work hard for is VIP Parking, says Freschi. “You can reserve front row parking for the month’s top performer. If you want to take it up a notch, create a custom parking sign for the spot.”

5. Provide an outlet for positive feedback 

“Create a system that allows peer-to-peer/cross company feedback,” suggests HR Coach Sarah Finch. “Using a company intranet or other internal site for posting feedback is great, but you can simply ask employees to send an e-mail to a dedicated internal address like feedback@companyname.com. Each month, share several great submissions company-wide and enter all employees who received feedback into a quarterly drawing to get a small reward like a gift card.”

To encourage feedback submissions, Finch suggests offering another small reward like a free lunch for employees who submit the most feedback.

6. Give them more autonomy 

“Changing the environment, offering quiet spaces, leaving the herd mentality behind and letting individuals say no to some work and projects that are outside of their strengths can motivate them,” says Julia Angelen, a PR & Social Media Consultant at Z Group PR. “Providing a mentor (not another boss!) can motivate them.” 

She also adds, “Letting them pick their work hours and allowing them to structure their own work – essentially treating them like expert consultants can also motivate them.”

7. Never reprimand them 

There’s no more direct way to close an employee off than to reprimand them or devalue their ideas. “Don’t criticize your employees for mistakes they may have made and never tell them an idea is bad,” suggests Earl Choate, CEO of Concrete Camoflauge. “Instead, you want them to view errors or roadblocks as learning opportunities. Motivation fosters from an environment that is open in which employees aren’t hesitant to provide suggestions and express their ideas.”

8. Offer development opportunities

“A raise or bonus is a great way to acknowledge sustained good work, but if you want to give kudos or give some spot-appreciation you can also reward people with development opportunities (opportunities to learn new skills, take the lead on an exciting project, present their work to leadership or at a large team meeting, etc.),” says Hughes. “Make sure you let them know why you chose them – it’ll help reinforce whatever they’re doing that’s going well.”

9. Give them a breather

What really matters to employees is recognition, encouragement, and helping to celebrate some of their wins, even if it’s in small ways,”  says Rashea Jenkins, HR Manager at Frontier Communications. For breathers, Jenkins suggests “Doing something that’s not work-related during working hours. This might be games, a movie, or just letting employees choose to do something they want.” As a caveat to the “free” requirement, Jenkins says “Consider letting employees leave work early while still getting paid — time is almost as valuable as money (or more valuable depending on the person).” 

10. Don’t micromanage

“Allow people freedom, as best you can, to choose the “how” of the work, even if they can’t choose the “what,” says Leadership Development Coach and Consultant Lisa Sansom, of LVS Consulting. “Often there are many ways to get to an end goal – let employees use their wisdom and strengths to choose a path that works for them, even if you’d do it differently.”

A positive managing style can be encouraging to employees, says Keith Davitt, Owner of Thirsty Cat Fountains. “We treat them with respect and consideration, we allow them as much freedom as possible (in what hours they work, the order in which and how they fulfill their responsibilities), and we never raise our voices or complain or criticize.”

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Category: HR | Leadership

Katherine is a New York-based digital writer who joined Fingercheck in 2015. She promotes Fingercheck through the power of the written word. She graduated from Fordham University with a B.A. in Communications and Media Studies with a focus on Journalism. Connect with her on LinkedIn

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