How to motivate staff without money

HRD talks to a chief people officer about low-cost ways to reward employees

How to motivate staff without money

It was the Flying Lizards who had the hit song ‘Money’ in 1979.

The chorus (‘I want my money, that’s what I want’) was reflective of many employees at the time who were striving for a better car or a nicer home.

However, the reality is that motiving workers and retaining their services means employers must think beyond monetary rewards in 2020.

After TINYpulse anonymously surveyed 200,000 workers to see what motivates them, money did not even make the top five.

According to the research, the factors which motivated employees most were camaraderie and peer motivation (20%), intrinsic desire to do a good job (17%), feeling encouraged and recognised (13%), having a real impact (10%) and growing professionally (8%).

These results would be welcomed by many HR directors in the COVID-19 era, who are trying to recognise employees, while operating under tight budgets.

Michael Osmond, head of people and Culture at JobAdder, said that since the onset of COVID-19, a lot of staff are happy with job security and the peace of mind that their organisation will be around long-term.

“You need to break it down and go back to asking staff how they want to be recognised,” Osmond told HRD.

“Simple forms of verbal recognition by managers and leadership in various situations like team and staff meetings is a great way to recognise staff.”

Read more: How does Fitness First reward workplace performance?

Indeed, the power of simply saying ‘thank you’ has been shown to have profound effects on employees, particularly if it comes from a senior leader.

A Gallup survey recently found that “even a small amount of time a high-ranking leader takes to show appreciation can yield a positive impression on an employee”.

For Osmond, it’s about not underestimating the power of positive impact, which can be aided by running monthly staff awards with peer-to-peer nominations.

It’s also important to recognise that people want time to themselves, as work at home blends with their personal and social life.

“We have asked staff to proactively pick a day in the next few weeks for a Wellbeing & Family Day to recharge and look after their mental health,” he added.

“Fun and socialising have their place, but people still want to feel a connection to the purpose of an organisation and understand how they can make an impact on that purpose.

“Staff meetings talking about how the business and various teams are performing, combined with a bit of fun is a simple and effective way to maintain engagement.”

Osmond said HR leaders need to be conscious that people’s needs will evolve and they'll need to keep a dialogue with their staff.

“Some lessons of the COVID-19 pandemic will translate to long-term changes in habits and expectations, but people’s needs will change,” he said.

“For example, we are finding more and more of a need from staff to socialise and see their teammates face-to-face, so we need to find ways to accommodate that.”

Read more: Are you rewarding the right behaviours?

In order to formulate the best strategies for long-term success, HR leaders need to ask for feedback through various channels more than ever.

This includes engagement surveys, pulse checks, advice on what learning and development needs staff have, and how to innovate more effectively.

“HR leaders should be regularly talking with leadership and staff to get pulse checks across the business and understand their pain points. Assumptions are a dangerous habit to get into.”

However, Osmond still recognised that there is a place for monetary rewards, particularly as the economy bounces back. And it doesn’t have to break the bank.

The Society for Human Resource Management and Globoforce found that companies that spend just 1% of their payroll budget on thanking and recognising their employees "are more likely to perceive greater impacts on retention and financial outcomes”.

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