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Way Better Than “Free Lunch” : Motivate Others When Pay Raises and Pricy Perks Aren’t an Option!

In any economy, one of the only things less productive than excessive employee turnover is having uninspired, unproductive employees that are with you for life.

Now more than ever, employees may be intent on keeping their current job rather than risk finding employment elsewhere. However, if the employee is unmotivated, their presence is likely not a plus for the company. That’s why you’ve got to do everything you can to keep morale and productivity up, especially when pay raises, bonuses, and “perks” may not be a feasible solution.

It’s likely we’ve all been in a situation where our boss has “thanked” us or we’ve “thanked” our team by giving a free lunch, mall gift certificate, or perhaps an award to hang on the wall. It seems like a pretty good idea at the time, but what happens when lunch is over and the gift certificate is spent? I’m willing to bet things go back to normal within a day of the effort, because the truth is we’re all hungry for more than just a free lunch. We’re hungry for real recognition and real incentives that actually motivate us to want to do our best every day.

Not don’t get me wrong, I’m not suggesting you discontinue current efforts, because it’s definitely a step in the right direction. Particularly since research shows that “lack of recognition” is one of the key reasons employees site for disengaging from their work. What I’m suggesting is that you use these tactics as sort of “icing on the cake,” a supplement to daily positive reinforcement and recognition. I know, you may be thinking “Isn’t a paycheck enough? Who has the time or energy to walk around thanking everyone??”

The fact is, it may not be just about thanking your team. In fact, in my experience, employees are equally interested in being involved in projects, having an employer that focuses on their strengths, being asked for their input, and receiving constructive feedback when a project doesn’t go as planned. In other words, when we feel connected to a project (or team, or company), we are attached to the outcome, more productive, and typically feel a sense of accomplishment – even if no one gives us a verbal “thank you.”

According to a 2005 Gallup pole of more than 1,000 people, employees were 99% more likely to be engaged in their work and have a positive attitude when their employer focused primarily on building employee strengths. The number is reduced to only 40% if their manager primarily focused on weaknesses or gave no feedback at all.

I encourage you to identify the strengths, talents, and skills your employees and co-workers possess, as well as the skills that compliment your team and increase your value to the company.

Another incentive might simply be complimenting an effort, even if the goal hasn’t yet been reached. Excellence takes time and practice, and your employees will likely be encouraged to keep aiming for the target if you praise them along the way.

Lastly, find out what matters to each individual. What works for some may not work for others, and for many, nothing is better than personalized recognition. Does the employee like to be praised in front of others or would they prefer to keep out of the spotlight? Do they want a free lunch or would they rather leave an hour early with pay? And perhaps most importantly, does the employee truly know their value to the
company? Be specific about why you’re giving recognition and incentives, otherwise there is likely little value to your employees and your efforts will be quickly forgotten.

I know this can take time and energy. . . but the results will speak for themselves. The good news is, the results last longer and the effort won’t cost you a dime. . . and isn’t that worth it?
Activate Potential. Realize Results.

©2014 Actualize Consulting Group. All rights reserved worldwide. Permission granted to excerpt or reprint with attribution and notification.