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10 Cost-Effective Strategies for Motivating Employees

Employees who are motivated are generally more committed and engaged and typically perform better than employees who aren't. But motivating employees isn't always easy, especially since they aren't all motivated by the same thing. Supervisors should understand individual motivators and tailor their management style accordingly.

A common misconception is that employees are motivated predominately by money. While this may be true for some employees, most are motivated by other non-monetary factors, such as autonomy, challenge, and recognition. Below are 10 cost-effective ways to inspire your workforce:

  1. Challenging work. Many employees seek challenging and varied work that allows them to grow and develop their skills. Not only does this foster a sense of achievement, but it can also help prepare them for future growth within your business.

    Low cost motivator: Whenever possible, try to design jobs with a variety of tasks and give employees “stretch” assignments.

  2. Recognition. Recognizing employees' contributions and accomplishments can help demonstrate that you value and appreciate their work and can provide continued motivation for meeting and/or exceeding expectations.

    Low cost motivator: Send “thank you” notes or emails to express your appreciation and make announcements in newsletters or group meetings to highlight employee achievements.

  3. Autonomy. Many employees are motivated by having greater control over the way their jobs are accomplished. This can help them to feel more personal responsibility for the outcome of their job and establishes a foundation of trust and respect.

    Low cost motivator: Set clear goals and expectations, but be open and flexible on how the results are achieved.

  4. Teamwork. Some employees are motivated by developing strong working relationships with their co-workers. As an added benefit, camaraderie often results in a more relaxed and comfortable workplace, which can lead to a happier and more productive workforce.

    Low cost motivator: Consider assigning more group projects and facilitating group activities and company events.

  5. Align goals. Employees want to know that their work is valued and that it contributes to the success of the overall business. The company's mission and goals should be clearly communicated to all employees, and employees should know how their job fits in.

    Low cost motivator: Tie employee goals and outcomes to overall business objectives.

  6. Career development. Giving employees opportunities to learn new skills and face new challenges can be an effective motivational tool. Not to mention, career development can be viewed as an investment, since these initiatives can prepare employees for future growth within the company.

    Low cost motivator: Consider developing your employees through programs such as mentoring, coaching, job shadowing, and cross-training.

  7. Open communication. Communicate openly with employees about the company's goals and business results and give employees the opportunity to provide you with feedback.

    Low cost motivator: Hold regular staff meetings, implement an employee suggestion program, and conduct employee satisfaction surveys. Caveat: If you invite employee suggestions, make sure you follow-up on them. Try to use as many suggestions as possible and recognize employees when their suggestions are used.

  8. Flexibility. Flexible work arrangements can help motivate employees by allowing them to balance their work and life responsibilities.

    Low cost motivator: Rearrange work schedules for increased work-life balance. Consider telecommuting (i.e. work from home arrangements), compressed workweeks (e.g. four 10-hour work days per week), and flextime (i.e. early arrival or departure).

  9. Time off. Paid time off serves as another way for employees to meet their work-life demands. It's also important for ensuring your employees have time to relax, avoid burn out, and remain energized throughout the year.

    Low cost motivator: Develop a paid time off program that gives your employees a chance to meet personal obligations and recharge. The amount of paid time off is usually based upon years of service.

  10. Fair workplace. If employees view your policies and practices as unfair, they are unlikely to be motivated. Policies should always be followed consistently, pay practices should reflect workers' contributions, and employees should be valued and respected.

    Low cost motivator: Review your policies and procedures to ensure employees are treated fairly and equitably. Additionally, ensure that all supervisors are trained to enforce company policies on a consistent basis.

Motivated employees not only perform at a higher level, but they also tend to be more committed and have lower turnover. Determine what motivates your employees and then develop strategies accordingly.

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Top Related Resources
  • Performance Management Toolkit
  • Performance Review Checklist
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