9 Low-Cost and No-Cost Ideas for Motivating Employees
By Valerie Grubb
Managing employees can be one of the most challenging–and also most rewarding–responsibilities as you move up within a company. When your management works and you see your employees surpass even their own expectations, it’s wildly exciting and incredibly fulfilling! If you’re new to managing employees – the great news is that you don’t need a big budget to inspire your employees. The strategies listed below can help you motivate and engage your employees, even under the tightest financial constraints.
1) Provide Interesting Work
Management theorist Frederick Herzberg once said, “If you want someone to do a good job, give them a good job to do.” So give your employees good jobs by making sure that at least part of their responsibilities includes something of great interest to them. Even for those jobs that are inherently boring, having at least one or two stimulating projects can motivate employees to perform well in the mundane tasks, too. Recommend your employee to a new task force your CEO is forming, for example, or let him or her take the lead at your next staff meeting. Find out your employee’s career aspirations, then identify assignments that will expand his or her skill set in the desired direction. The increased productivity you gain by providing interesting projects beyond the day-to-day tasks will more than compensate for the time your employees are away from their regular jobs.
2) Require Managers to Coach and Develop
This strategy may sound like a no-brainer. But it bears repeating, because we all know managers who are slackers when it comes to coaching and developing their employees–and in these uncertain times, employees need feedback more than ever. Remember, employees join companies, but they leave managers. So hold your managers accountable for coaching employees to achieve outstanding results and developing their staff through mentoring and training opportunities (see the next two bullet points). If they aren’t fulfilling those responsibilities, replace them with people who will.
3) Establish a Mentoring Program
Seventy-one percent of Fortune 500 companies offer mentoring programs to their employees. Why? Because those companies recognize that such programs bring a multitude of benefits to both protégé and mentor. Mentoring employees (especially new hires) can lead to better retention while mentoring aspiring talent can form the cornerstone of succession planning. Mentoring programs traditionally pair a junior employee with a more experienced colleague, but there’s no need to stick only to this format. Reverse mentoring, for example, can help senior executives keep up with cutting-edge technology and with company issues that are usually only on the radar of junior staff. Group or situational mentoring is also on the rise for issues such as diversity or high-potential training. And if your company doesn’t have a formal program, create your own! Establish mentoring relationships for your employees by tapping fellow executives (and agree to mentor their employees in return).
4) Train Your Employees
Training doesn’t have to cost money. No-cost and low-cost internal training options include:
- Establish a job-shadowing program – even if you’re the executive your employee is shadowing! Allow your high potentials to gain exposure to senior executives through the projects on your plate.
- Arrange for monthly luncheons with your top executives whereby they can interact and ask questions.
- Allow your employees to represent the company at a public function (charity fundraiser, sporting event, etc.), teaching them the responsibilities when in front of clients.
- Expose employees to organizations with relationships to yours (e.g., visit a vendor, take a trip to customer’s site).
- Rotate employees into areas in which they need to improve their skills or gain exposure for continued growth.
- Invite employees to spearhead projects in areas where they need improvement.
- Read case studies and books on issues that are relevant to your organization, and discuss with fellow executives. (Be sure to find out what books your CEO recommends!)
- Encourage employees to volunteer for industry organizations where they can develop leadership and management opportunities. Local non-profit groups, school organizations, or community-based programs may also be an option.
5) Roll Out Financial Training
All employees need to understand how your company makes money, how individual department budgets connect to the organization’s products and services, and how all that information describes the company’s financial health. Unfortunately, most employees (including some senior leaders) are woefully ignorant in this area. So have your HR and finance departments team up to teach classes on budgeting and its connection to your company’s financial well-being. By teaching fiscal responsibility, you’ll soon have employees identifying cost-cutting measures, because they’ll be as eager as your CFO to save the money and improve the company’s finances.
6) Invite Involvement and Ownership in Decisions
Most companies don’t prioritize involving employees in decisions that affect them. Perhaps it’s time to reconsider that practice, though. Keeping employees in the loop is not only respectful, but it’s also practical: people who are closest to a situation typically have the best insight on how to improve it. Employees on the ground floor of an issue often know what works (and what doesn’t) and can provide valuable insight into how to resolve the issue quickly and effectively. In addition, employees who have a hand in crafting a solution are more invested in working toward its success.
7) Increase Visibility and Opportunity
Motivate employees by recognizing when their performance goes above and beyond. You can do this through publicly crediting them for their work, for example, or by giving them new assignments or additional responsibilities. Keep in mind, however, the first strategy in this list: make sure those additional responsibilities are of interest or value to the employee. (After all, having to deal with even more mundane tasks isn’t the reward most people are looking for.) Remember, you get what you reward.
8) Provide autonomy Employees value the freedom to do their jobs as they see fit. So if your employees are able to get their jobs done (and done well) on their own, leave them alone! When you give high-performing employees more autonomy, you increase the likelihood that those employees will continue to perform as desired. Even with new recruits who haven’t yet proven themselves in your company, you can provide autonomy in work assignments by telling those employees what needs to be done without dictating exactly how to do it.
9) Train your Managers to Provide Greater Recognition
A 2012 Bersin & Associates study indicates that, compared to companies without recognition programs, those organizations that do have such initiatives enjoy 14% higher employee engagement, productivity, and customer service and 31% fewer voluntary turnovers. So tout the accomplishments of employees–and require your managers to do the same. And if your company doesn’t already have a formal recognition program, perhaps now is the time to push for one.
Even if you do have a big budget, simply throwing money around rarely creates a more engaged and motivated workforce. Don’t get me wrong–if your employees are underpaid, money is the first step toward making them happier and more valuable members of your organization. But if you really want to engage them, you need to think beyond the paycheck.
Many employees work longer than an eight-hour day because that’s what it takes to get the job done, but all of us probably know people who put in the extra time and effort because they are totally committed to their company (or have a passion for a particular volunteer organization or cause). They have this drive in large part because they’re getting more than a paycheck. There’s something that motivates them to go above and beyond–and with the strategies outlined here, you can cultivate a similar commitment and drive in your own employees!
Valerie Grubb of Val Grubb & Associates Ltd. (www.valgrubbandassociates.com) is an innovative and visionary operations leader with an exceptional ability to zero in on the systems, processes, and personnel issues that can hamper a company’s growth. Grubb regularly consults for mid-range companies wishing to expand and larger companies seeking efficiencies in back-office operations. Her expertise and vibrant style are also in constant demand for corporate training classes and seminars. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.