Low-Cost Ways to Motivate Your Employees


Jan 25, 2016


The success of a small business is heavily reliant on the quality, productivity, and loyalty of its workforce.

The most respected businesses have passionate employees who embrace their company’s vision, values and goals as their own. They don’t just work for a paycheck; they find significance in what they do.

But in order for your employees to be engaged to this level, you have to nurture an environment of solidarity.

Financial perks alone don’t cut it anymore. Your employees want to feel appreciated.

Following are some low-cost ideas to get the best out of your employees:


Enhance Their Skills

Give your employees various opportunities to expand their abilities and develop into effective leaders:

  • Send them to industry-related seminars, conferences, and events.
  • Invest in online classes to teach them new skills or polish existing ones.
  • Subscribe to trade magazines, journals, and online publications.
  • Let them lead team meetings once a month.
  • Spend 1-on-1 time with each of them to address concerns, answer questions, or offer feedback on how they can evolve within your company. They, in turn, can mentor new hires.
  • Encourage them to brainstorm new solutions to existing or new problems. Spend a couple of hours every two weeks to review their ideas.
  • Talk to them. Drop by their cubicles, desks, or offices – or connect via video conferencing tools – for a casual conversation. Ask them how you can make their working hours even more pleasant. The more you listen to them, the more valued they will feel.
  • Challenge your employees with additional responsibilities. Try to find a sweet spot of attainable yet challenging goals.


Do Not Micromanage

Give your employees time and space to blossom into their fullest potential. Lend flexibility to their work schedules by:

  • Letting them take mini-breaks to unwind or take care of urgent personal errands. A longer lunch, an extended coffee break, or a 20-minute walk will rejuvenate them.
  • Allowing them to come late or leave early once in awhile.
  • Giving them an extra day off after a grueling week.
  • Taking a ‘work vacation’ with your employees once or twice a year, especially if you are part of a virtual team.
  • Letting them telecommute once or twice a week, unless your office requires their presence at all times.
  • So long as your employees are not slacking away unnecessarily, trust them to fulfill their responsibilities without looking over their shoulder at all times. Set goals, assign roles, and let go of the urge to control.


Food and Drink

Bonding over food and drinks is a time-honored social custom. Nourish your employees by:

  • Buying breakfast for the office either weekly, biweekly, or monthly.
  • Taking them out for lunch once a month.
  • Surprising them with a catered lunch.
  • Stocking your pantries with healthy snacks, such as fruits, nuts, and bars, and couple of gourmet coffee packages.
  • Ordering pastries or sandwiches on someone’s birthday, anniversary, or first day at work. What’s better than celebrating personal milestones with food and drinks?


Peer Chosen Employee of the Month

On the last day of every month, ask each team member to nominate three co-workers for the “Employees of the Month” award, clearly stating why they were chosen. The winners are then picked at random on the first day of the next month.

The winners enjoy at least a few of these privileges for a week or two:

  • They get promoted on all marketing channels. Request them to record a brief video message about why they enjoy working for your company. Compile these testimonials in a Company Culture section on your website.
  • They are given movie tickets, a meaningful gift card, or a gift certificate for a massage session.
  • If they take the train or bus to work, you can pay for a one to two-week worth Metro pass.
  • Contribute a minor amount to their favorite charity (even a $10 contribution will be appreciated)

Simple, yet attentive, gestures can be more powerful motivators than padded bank accounts.


Appreciative Notes

When was the last time you wrote a note to an employee that wasn’t regarding a specific project or task? Notes and emails can be a great way to let your employees know they’re at the top of your mind.

  • Express Gratitude: Thank You – two monosyllabic words that are not said as often as they should. Wholeheartedly thanking your employees is often regarded as the most endearing form of appreciation.  While a verbal expression is powerful enough, the written version will most certainly win over your staff.
  • Wish Good Morning: A consistent “good morning” email can be a great way to kick off the day’s work flow. Thank employees for their hard-work. Include a motivational quote, fun trivia, positive client testimonials, and/or key goals of the day. Reiterate that your doors (or Inboxes) are always open for them.
  • Welcome Notes: Send a thoughtful and personal note to new hires. A well-conceived ‘Welcome Note’ will inspire and invigorate them to do their best.


Institute Team Building Activities

An enjoyable workplace is one where there majority of coworkers get along with each other. Bring them closer by:

  • Organizing team appreciation events, such as family luncheons, live shows, and game nights. Relax after a stressful day or just give your mind a break.
  • Coming up with fun ways to spend time together. For instance, a day at a paintball park, group cooking classes, attending a live game, or playing a team game (such as baseball or football). These activities will not only re-emphasize the benefits of professional collaboration, but will also deepen personal relationships.
  • Creating a mini-library at your workplace. Request your employees to donate some of their favorite books and music albums.
  • Coming up with a list of ‘Kindness Acts’ – for example, buy a cup of coffee for a stranger. Urge your employees to perform the ‘Chosen Act of the Day’ for a year. Don’t penalize those who don’t participate, but the ones who do will enrich your workplace with positive stories, thereby stimulating others to give back too.

By partaking in enjoyable activities together, your productivity and collaborative efforts will soar.


Make the Company “Our Company”

Traditional employee appreciation techniques, such as materialistic perks and promotions, still work.

But if you want to build a business that is truly successful, you need to personalize your employees’ work experience. Give your employees several reasons to truly care about their work.

Such an emotional commitment results in a pleasant working environment, which, in turn, lowers turnovers, improves productivity, enhances customer satisfaction, and increases profitability.