​Motivating Staff On The Cheap

Galvanising your employees doesn't have to be costly to be effective.


Motivating staff has become big business and for good reason. A Gallup research poll discovered that an astonishing 70% of employees feel disengaged at work. The capitalist's paradox with this issue is that money doesn't really motivate people as much we would all like it to.

In fact, in another survey conducted by TINYpulse, which featured over 200,000 employees from 500 organizations, they asked the question 'What motivates you to excel and go the extra mile at your organization?'. Money and benefits came in 7th with 7%. The top 3 answers were:

1. Camaraderie, peer motivation (20%)

2. Intrinsic desire to a good job (17%)

3. Feeling encouraged and recognized (13%)

This means staff motivation is much more of a nuanced issue than can simply be solved by handing out bonuses and setting incentives. On the plus side, it also means there are some very effective ways to engage your staff at a relatively low cost. Here are some ways you can motivate your staff on the cheap.

Show your appreciation

A surprisingly simple yet incredibly effective technique to motivate your staff is to simply say thank you. Employees respond to genuine appreciation, it increases their pride, their sense of self-esteem and leads to workers becoming more productive because they feel it's noticed. A 10-year motivation study conducted by the Carrot Principle showed that managers who were good at 'recognizing' their employees had lower turnover rates, achieved better organizational results and were 'seen to be much stronger in goal-setting, communication, trust, and accountability'.


Even if you really love your job, work can still be very frustrating at times. Frustration leads to stress and stress is a silent and expensive killer. It is estimated that stress-related issues cost employers 300 billion a year in health care and missed work.

So another simple way to rectify this is allowing workers to vent their issues. Not to a faceless suggestion box but someone who they can believe is actually listening. It may help you find out if there are things or processes you can rectify to make everyone's day a bit better. However, simply giving staff a safe outlet for their grievances, whether you can help or not, will improve their mood. Author of 'The Power of Appreciation in Business', Dr. Noelle Nelson, writes that 'psychological well-being translates into better job performance, less absenteeism, and less turnover — facts a business can ill afford to ignore.'


Most people have some cause that they hold dear which they also feel like they've been neglecting, usually because of work. Giving staff either the opportunity to take some time off to pursue their charitable ambitions or encouraging them all to choose one to commit to it as a company project can have a multitude of positive effects. Elizabeth Stocker, a consultant with 'Great Place to Work' says 'When employees are actively involved in giving back it can lead to a deeper commitment and connection to the work. It doesn’t surprise me that the sentiment was much higher when people are actually involved in the work, rather than a corporate donation being made.'

Plus, you get to look like the conscientious hero employer which doesn't hurt...

Nurture their creativity

From an employee standpoint, allowing staff to pursue their passions will enrich their lives and grow loyalty to the company that allowed them to do it.

However, this benefits both you and your employees. Depending on your kind of business, encouraging your staff to experiment with new ways to better the company, like Google's (alleged) 20% rule, could bring in innovation you didn't even know you needed. Other effective examples of this are OfficeDrop, who give all their staff 24 hours on creative ideas 3/4 times a year. FedEx has a similar day, FedEx Day, where employees are asked to look beyond their job titles and explore new ideas. 

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