9 Things That Motivate Employees More Than Money

Don't show 'em the money (even if you have it). Here are nine better ways to boost morale.

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The ability to motivate employees is one of the greatest skills an entrepreneur can possess. Two years ago, I realized I didn’t have this skill. So I hired a CEO who did.

Josh had 12 years in the corporate world, which included running a major department at Comcast. I knew he was seasoned, but I was still skeptical at first. We were going through some tough growing pains, and I thought that a lack of cash would make it extremely difficult to improve the company morale.

I was wrong.

With his help and the help of the great team leaders he put in place, Josh not only rebuilt the culture, but also created a passionate, hard-working team that is as committed to growing and improving the company as I am.

Here are nine things I learned from him:

  1. Be generous with praise. Everyone wants it and it’s one of the easiest things to give. Plus, praise from the CEO goes a lot farther than you might think. Praise every improvement that you see your team members make. Once you’re comfortable delivering praise one-on-one to an employee, try praising them in front of others.  
  2. Get rid of the managers. Projects without project managers? That doesn’t seem right! Try it. Removing the project lead or supervisor and empowering your staff to work together as a team rather then everyone reporting to one individual can do wonders. Think about it. What’s worse than letting your supervisor down? Letting your team down! Allowing people to work together as a team, on an equal level with their co-workers, will often produce better projects faster. People will come in early, stay late, and devote more of their energy to solving problems.  
  3. Make your ideas theirs. People hate being told what to do. Instead of telling people what you want done; ask them in a way that will make them feel like they came up with the idea. “I’d like you to do it this way” turns into “Do you think it’s a good idea if we do it this way?”  
  4. Never criticize or correct. No one, and I mean no one, wants to hear that they did something wrong. If you’re looking for a de-motivator, this is it. Try an indirect approach to get people to improve, learn from their mistakes, and fix them. Ask, “Was that the best way to approach the problem? Why not? Have any ideas on what you could have done differently?” Then you’re having a conversation and talking through solutions, not pointing a finger.  
  5. Make everyone a leader. Highlight your top performers’ strengths and let them know that because of their excellence, you want them to be the example for others. You’ll set the bar high and they’ll be motivated to live up to their reputation as a leader.  
  6. Take an employee to lunch once a week. Surprise them. Don’t make an announcement that you’re establishing a new policy. Literally walk up to one of your employees, and invite them to lunch with you. It’s an easy way to remind them that you notice and appreciate their work.  
  7. Give recognition and small rewards. These two things come in many forms: Give a shout out to someone in a company meeting for what she has accomplished. Run contests or internal games and keep track of the results on a whiteboard that everyone can see. Tangible awards that don’t break the bank can work too. Try things like dinner, trophies, spa services, and plaques. 
  8. Throw company parties. Doing things as a group can go a long way. Have a company picnic. Organize birthday parties. Hold a happy hour. Don’t just wait until the holidays to do a company activity; organize events throughout the year to remind your staff that you’re all in it together. 
  9. Share the rewards—and the pain. When your company does well, celebrate. This is the best time to let everyone know that you’re thankful for their hard work. Go out of your way to show how far you will go when people help your company succeed. If there are disappointments, share those too. If you expect high performance, your team deserves to know where the company stands. Be honest and transparent. 

Ilya Pozin founded his first company, Ciplex, at age 17. The digital marketing and creative agency caters to small businesses and start-ups. @ilyaNeverSleeps

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139 comments
ShellsACSP
ShellsACSP

there is a minor error - point number 2 should read ... work together as a team rather than everyone as opposed to ... rather then everyone

Simon Gabay
Simon Gabay

These are all great tips, after all, attention IS one of the biggest forms of accommodation BUT it shouldn't replace an adequate salary and bonuses for employees.

misterdanton
misterdanton

bogus and baack to a new thread of awesomeness in which I think I had a sentence or two typed out previously, this is big, this may have to be about the commute from Seattle to Portland for ciggarettes and price envy laziness or it could be about lack of assistance. I was offered a position to CLEAN UP somewhere today, but was told that I wouldn't get my minimum requests met, being laundry money for the eventual dirty clothing as well as some ciggarettes. Hotel accomodations would have been provided, the one plus, but..you like that plus but, kinda like puss nut, on the bus broke but, but its not, so lemme holler about this ridiculousness for a second, dude, had to borrow the ELECTRICIANS tools to lower a ceiling grid due to lack of tools as well as I'll stop, no food no water, weird, huh?

AlexisZ
AlexisZ

Yes, this may all be true, but unfortunately, this is also the sort of thing that all too many employers will use as an excuse NOT to give their employees adequate salaries and raises. 

Marc Schluper
Marc Schluper

I can understand the advice to make oneself invisible as a manager. But getting rid of managers is one step too far. I have been in a project without a manager. It falls apart as soon as team members don't see a common direction.

And I can understand the advice to allow people to make mistakes. But never correcting mistakes is one step too far (again). If we don't acknowledge mistakes, how can we learn from them and avoid them the next time?

marchdarkfox
marchdarkfox

Throw company parties

Take an employee to lunch once a week

Ick...The last thing I want to do is be forced into something I'd rather not do. I'm not anti-social but I like having a choice about who I have lunch with and I don't care for being bullied into going to a so-called "party/gathering".

marchdarkfox
marchdarkfox

Throw company parties

Take an employee to lunch once a week

Ick...The last thing I want to do is be forced into something I'd rather not do. I'm not anti-social but I like having a choice about who I have lunch with and I don't care for being bullied into going to a so-called "party/gathering".

marchdarkfox
marchdarkfox

Throw company parties

Take an employee to lunch once a week

Ick...The last thing I want to do is be forced into something I'd rather not do.  I'm not anti-social but I like having a choice about who I have lunch with and I don't care for being bullied into going to a so-called "party/gathering".

UKMole
UKMole

Things That Motivate Employees More Than Money

There are some good pointers mentioned. The one which I found works well as an reward -

POETS DAY

Piss Off Early Tomorrows SaturDAY!

Phoenix31756
Phoenix31756

IMHO, I think the author failed by not expressing the most important rule to live by.....................................TREAT EVERYONE AS A HUMAN BEING !

But then again, not many will truly understand this little Golden rule because it seems so what................. OBVIOUS !

harvey_conn
harvey_conn

As a former supervisor in the Federal Government, I can tell you that 8 or 9 of those were against policy, frowned on by "upper management" or could initiate disciplinary action against you. But you guys in the private sector can go on and knock yourselves out with the parties. If you think the parties were big during this administration, just wait until the GOP gets back in. You ain't seen real waste, fraud and abuse yet, .... but it's coming.

MaryMitch
MaryMitch

In some ways, this speaks true. Of course, people like to be paid a salary that shows their worth, but every day people quit their jobs because they aren't happy. (I know, doesn't sound right, but I was one of these people, and even though I make a lesser salary I'm MUCH happier now.)

In my opinion, some of the things that American business can improve on:

1. Don't require people to do stupid things. Unless there's a good reason for going to a meeting, don't require it. Better yet, don't have it. Don't make them fill out daily progress reports; weekly or monthly is often enough.

2. DO show some appreciation for a job well done. But don't do it in such a way that everyone is mad at the "good" employee for being a suck-up.

3. Don't grab all the credit for your employees' work.

4. Don't isolate your employees from each other. Give them places to have a break and relax together.

The best supervisor I ever had told us "My job is to make it easy to do your job." I would have marched into hell for that guy.

PaulBaribeau
PaulBaribeau

I

work for TribeHR, and we’ve blogged quite a bit about effective (and

inexpensive) ways to keep employees happy and productive.  These

suggestions are great-- if you’re interested in getting a few more ideas about

how to boost morale at work, check out our blog post on the topic: http://blog.tribehr.com/bid/11...

PaulBaribeau
PaulBaribeau

I

work for TribeHR, and we’ve blogged quite a bit about effective (and

inexpensive) ways to keep employees happy and productive.  These

suggestions are great-- if you’re interested in getting a few more ideas about

how to boost morale at work, check out our blog post on the topic: http://blog.tribehr.com/bid/11...

Jorge Macias Guzman
Jorge Macias Guzman

All of this is wrong, slapping the back of their heads works wonders for me.

Ben Puffer
Ben Puffer

You all make interesting points. Towers-Perrin published an article back in 2003 that highlighted the results from survey data. The results indicated that, in order to MAINTAIN your employees' SATISFACTION, the top five things employees wanted were:

1. Career advancement opportunities

2. Retention of high-performing team members

3. Overall work environment

4. Development of employee's skills

5. Resources to get the job done.

Competitive base pay was 6th on that list. Now, the argument could be made that times have changed - and they have, as this data is now close to 10 years old, and we've been through a lot of economic changes since 2003.

My point is that, while important, competitive base pay and merit raises are only going to SATISFY employees. They are not meant, nor typically designed, to be MOTIVATING or ENGAGING variables. Nor have they ever really been so in the past. Unions don't typically form to create compensation systems that pay exceedingly above the market - they typically form to address issues with poor management, work conditions, and a feeling like the company doesn't care about the employees.

We can all shoot arrows at the author, but when it comes down to it, Generation Y is slowly taking over the majority stake of the workforce, and they are MUCH less MOTIVATED by money than previous generations. You can scream that pay-for-performance is the best thing since sliced bread, people should just come to work and be happy they have a job, and who cares about all this sissy-prissy stuff, but it ultimately won't mean a thing to your Gen Y workers if the work environment is unbearable and unrewarding. If you want to have the best talent in the market over the next 10-15 years, I'd suggest considering some of these items.

Take it or leave it, but the workforce is changing. Are you changing with it, or being left behind?

BP

Bill Handy
Bill Handy

Agreed on all levels of motivation but cash can still be king. It is important to remember that how an employee is compensated also sends a clear message about how you perceive them.  Case in point with a little Harvard research to boot can be found here 

http://stfpr.com/2012/08/14/yo...

Headster
Headster

Soft skills are important, but some of these are a little too soft.  People like feedback and they don't mind being challenged.   I especially "like" #2; it might work for a small project where everyone agrees on the goals and the timeline, but this absolutely won't work if you are, say, building a bridge.

Overall a little trite.

Igor Berman
Igor Berman

Mhmm, adopt a kindergarten policy to a corporation; thus creating a nation of entitled sissies who come to work as a favor instead of merited employment. And then you wonder why there is so much outsourcing. Great article Ilusha. Not.

Jen FiftiEight
Jen FiftiEight

 so you think having a job is entitlement??  you sound like a bitter loser that probably will never amount to much. Guess you don't have much experience in the corporate world.

sminkeym
sminkeym

I fear that many of the comments made a "one or the other" view. Employees should never take an "attaboy" over an earned raise/bonus, but a pat-on-the-back doesn't hurt when it comes with a new paycheck. 

I am blessed to work for a company I enjoy working at, and they value employees, and when we do well we are paid for it and we receive team lunches. Every first Friday of the month we have "Beer Friday" to bring the office together to catch people up on what's going on within the company (acknowledge those who are new, who've been here 5+ years, and who's birthday is in that month). All of which doesn't stop them from giving me a bonus or raise. 

Sure, an "attaboy" doesn't pay the bills but it let's me know that I am not just someone they pay to keep around. Truly effective managers/CEOs will be able to balance monetary rewards with "attaboy"!  

Gmorbgmibgnikgnok
Gmorbgmibgnikgnok

Any one of these comments picked at random would make a better article than actual one.

By the way, I checked out Ilya Pozin's LinkedIn page.  The guy is a professional BS artist.  He's never actually made anything, let alone anything of consequence.

So yeah, believe him.

Robert Flanary
Robert Flanary

This is just another excuse to not pay employees what they are worth.

Gmorbgmibgnikgnok
Gmorbgmibgnikgnok

F*** all this.  Not one thing in this article addresses the two ways to earn loyalty:

1) Don't be a**hole.  Don't plan badly, only to have your employees work double overtime for your mistakes.  Don't take all the credit when they pull it off anyway.

2) Pay your employees well.  Those that work hard MUST get paid more, and with a raise that matters.

This article is describing ways to insult your employees' intelligence.  If it works, you should be disappointed in your employees.

Jack Xiao
Jack Xiao

I was wondering would the employee be motivated by giving them a Kechara Protection Chakras ? Beside than salary, there are lot of others thing can motivate the employee, it just depends on how the manager treat the employees

dimmek1
dimmek1

Does this kind of

stuff work to motivate managers?? What motivates managers?? Bonuses,

additional paid time off, company cars, company credit cards, wining and

dining, company hotels, meetings in semi-resort locations - things that

have value and are of use. Ask yourself what motivates a human being,

then you'll know if it motivates most employees.

NM2000
NM2000

What motivates managers is finding ways to motivate underlings without having to spend a dime.

I'll agree that in short periods where the company has to buckle down that I'll trade some "atta boys!" for raises in the lean times. But that has a time limit to it. And while praise is nice for general morale and motivation, salaries go much farther in terms of retention and long-term performance.

Where I work "Make everyone a leader" translates to give everyone jobs with higher responsibility without higher pay and then try to convince them that you value them and that the extra responsibility (without extra compensation) is proof of that.

dimmek1
dimmek1

Does this kind of

stuff work to motivate managers?? What motivates managers?? Bonuses,

additional paid time off, company cars, company credit cards, wining and

dining, company hotels, meetings in semi-resort locations - things that

have value and are of use. Ask yourself what motivates a human being,

then you'll know if it motivates most employees.

dimmek1
dimmek1

Does this kind of stuff work to motivate managers?? What motivates managers?? Bonuses, additional paid time off, company cars, company credit cards, wining and dining, company hotels, meetings in semi-resort locations - things that have value and are of use. Ask yourself what motivates a human being, then you'll know if it motivates most employees.

scarborrough
scarborrough

I could not come up with a better point for point description of the CEO daily work experience.  So doesn't this undermine their contention that they have to be paid such exorbitant salaries to assure performance? Well, to answer my own question it is because of confidentiality.  They don't want their CEO's taking the company secrets elsewhere.  A not too subtle form of coordinated extortion that underpins the corporate pay structure and guarantees the disproportionate distribution of wealth.

wakeupamerica123
wakeupamerica123

I see many comments about money is everything and companies should be paying more. The underlying problems is NOT  about getting paid more the problem is America is NOT living within their means. Houses that are to large, cars that are to expensive, designer cloths for children, Name brand food and appliances,  

The problem with America is we are spoiled and spend much of our time trying to show that we are better than other people. 

Live within your means and life will become much easier. After all it is to short.  

BeKind2AllMankind
BeKind2AllMankind

Americans live above their means--but that really has nothing to do with this article and what exactly does that mean anyway????  If your salary is $100k/year and you live well within that salary, if your employer stops increasing your salary for several years, but the cost of living continues to rise in every area, is that your fault?  Did you suddenly start living above your means because your employer consistenly increased his pay with money but paid you with silly parties and attaboys?  Americans living above their means is another topic entirely.  There are millions of Americans who never lived above their means--the cost of living increased but their salaries did not because the increased profits went into the pockets of the bosses.  I'm a hard worker, my work contributes to the success of my company or I wouldn't be here.  I work as a means to pay my bills and take care of my family--the same reasons my boss and every other person works.  Wake up people.

P.S.

Your post is full of grammatical errors.

NM2000
NM2000

 I was living within my means. In 2008 I was solidly middle class and worked hard to get there and keep it there. Since then, my company has only given raises every other year (and then less than 2%) while raising health care costs 11-15% per year. They've laid off a third of the staff and now we're all working the jobs of 2 or 3 three people with no additional compensation for the workload. Because everyone is so terrified of the economy, few are retiring or leaving voluntarily so there is little opportunity for promotion or advancement.

I paid for my cars in cash, put a third down on my house. I buy my shoes on sale at Payless. I don't run up debt or flaunt wealth, but I am still seeing a slowly eroding standard of living for myself and my neighbors day in and day out. In fact, it seems almost worse for those of us playing "by the rules" as it were. those trying the hardest to avoid debt, trying to save for retirement, trying to do right by our families. It seems because we aren't willing to game the system we struggle harder in some ways than those that happily declare bankruptcy every 10 years.

The problem is that the cost of living is going up, but the means have stagnated. And I am out there looking for new means now, but many companies aren't hiring (or aren't hiring at the same pay rates they used to). It isn't always so easy as muttering a platitude.

BeKind2AllMankind
BeKind2AllMankind

Bravo! Your response is honest and accurate--much better writing than the article itself.  Thank you!

NM2000
NM2000

After four years of middling-to-no wage increases and rising healthcare, gas, and other costs cutting into my paycheck...I'm currently looking for another job because money is about my *only* motivating factor right now. 

I've been getting pats on the back for years and that doesn't cover my mortgage.

Phil Smith
Phil Smith

Ilya Pozin  just got a byline for the article, no money. Right.

Fweener
Fweener

Why is it that the honchos who make it clear that they are motivated only by a huge payday think they can buy off the peons with trinkets and attaboys? Employees are not children. There are two rewards for your labor. One is MONEY. The other, if you're lucky, is learning. As Fred Neil said, it's "a handful of gimme and a mouthful of much obliged."

Raja Nagendra Kumar
Raja Nagendra Kumar

'Allow people to behave and deliver things in par with world class professionals'

With this goal in mind, correcting people is a great motivation. Look for Scale Out Model for team success, rather than pushing all towards Scale Up skills. This would be costly and impossible.

tokencode
tokencode

I pity the people willing to take a pat on the back or an office party in lue of fair compensation.   The bank doesn't ask how many times you were congratulated at work when you're applying for a mortgage...

ShredderFeeder
ShredderFeeder

Praise doesn't pay for college, but then again, that's what employers want.  An increasingly stupid workforce too dumb/desperate to demand what they deserve.

ShredderFeeder
ShredderFeeder

Because I don't think the staff of time will have the guts to approve my REAL comment, I have to say that this is a complete pile of manure...

Money talks.  You want cheap labor, go hire a bunch of people in an indian call-center who will destroy your brand and make you a laughing-stock.

you want it done right, hire someone and pay them what they're REALLY worth.

ShredderFeeder
ShredderFeeder

Money talks, bullshit walks, and cash on the night-stand speaks for itself.

Keltari
Keltari

This article is a perfect example of  the extreme disconnect of upper management and its employees.  It shows that CEOs view their workers as needy children who feel token amounts of praise is an incentive.  The reality is that all of the points in the article will make some people feel appreciated, however they will also alienate some employees.  Upper management tends to forget that the people working for you are smarter than you.  You cant run your company without them, many of them are irreplaceable.  You also need to remember that as upper management, you are the MOST replaceable part of any organization.  Treat your employees with respect and dignity and they will perform well.  Giving them a cheap gifts, pats on the back, and holiday parties will only go so far before they realize all that money would have been better spent on bonuses.  Never forget that the reason why we work is for the money.  Employees know when they do a good job.  Praise is nice, but we would gladly move to another company that doesnt give you a verbal "Atta Boy!" if we get a larger paycheck.

candiduscorvus
candiduscorvus

How about just pay your workers enough that they can keep up with their bills and livelihood? How about money? How about you freakin PAY YOUR PEOPLE.

I figured I'd say it three ways so they might get the message.

Irony_In_Action
Irony_In_Action

From #2.... "Removing the project lead or supervisor and empowering your staff to work together as a team rather then everyone reporting to one individual can do wonders." Note the misuse of the word "then."

Time magazine's staff is struggling with its command of the english language. I wonder if they will take the authors's advice and "Never criticize or correct."

Vinnie Vegas
Vinnie Vegas

Next article:  How to feed yourself without food!

shepdogsd
shepdogsd

This is good advice for good employees...but I don't see any advice for what happens when you run into an employee who is always late and screws up time and time again.    You either fire them...or disipline them to give them a chance.  Using this author's advice...since you can "NEVER criticize or correct""... I guess you just fire them.