5 Ways to Motivate Your Employees (Without Spending Any More Money)

October 6, 2015

One of the biggest problems facing businesses today is unmotivated, unengaged employees. Gallup found in 2012 that only about 13 percent of employees worldwide are engaged with their work, costing companies hundreds of billions of dollars a year in lost productivity.

The obvious question is - how do you fix that? Chances are you don’t want to just throw money at the problem, because a) you don’t really have the extra money to spend and b) more money probably won’t fix it anyway.

Well, with the help of some insightful LinkedIn data, there are five things you can do. And, as the headline suggests, they don’t revolve around spending more money (in fact, several of them will save you money).

1. Talk to your employees about how they can grow at your company

The key to motivating your employees is knowing what they want in a job. To figure that out, we surveyed more than 10,000 people who recently switched jobs to discover what they sought in their position.

The answer was clear: They wanted a position with more career progression. If they were motivated enough to switch jobs to advance careers, they’ll certainly be motivated by career progression at their own jobs.

How do you accomplish this? Talk with them; ask about their career goals. By giving them a target to aim at, you’ll have a more motivated employee.

2. Look to promote internally, before looking externally

Building off the last point, it isn’t enough to just talk about career progression at your company. You also have to build a culture around it by promoting internally to fill higher-up positions, instead of looking externally for candidates.

Again, this will reinforce the idea that if people are successful, they can move up at your company. That’s a great source of motivation. As an added bonus, it is also far cheaper to fill a job internally through promotion, than all the recruiting costs associated with finding top external talent to fill the role.

3. Make your company about more than just making money – focus on making an impact

People are motivated to advance their careers - the data shows that. But, people are also motivated by working for organizations where they feel like they can make a difference in people’s lives, beyond just the company’s shareholders.

Again, there’s data to back it up in the survey of why people switch jobs. Specifically, people today are more likely to switch their jobs from larger companies to smaller companies. Why?

It isn’t cash. People who switch to smaller companies are less likely to do so for money. Instead, our survey numbers show people tend to switch for smaller companies because they feel like the work there was more challenging and they can make more of an impact.

What does that have to do with motivating employees? Well, that data shows people are drawn to challenges, where they feel like they can really make an impact. Not just making more money.

So sell that vision at your company. Make your results not just about deals closed and customers retained, but about the lives your company helped improve through the goods and/or services it provides. Challenge them not to just make more money for your company, but to further improve the world around them.

Searching for inspiration on exactly how to sell this vision? Look no further than Steve Jobs.

4. Recognize your employees – when necessary

This one is all about balance. You shouldn’t get into the habit of complimenting your employees for doing their day-to-day work  – all that accomplishes is either creating a sense of entitlement or the compliments eventually falling on deaf ears.

But, for exceptional work, let your employee know. Or, if they’ve consistently done solid work for a period of weeks, tell them good job. An honest, deserved compliment can mean a lot to an employee, and will help keep them motivated and engaged at work.

5. Ensure they take time off

It sounds strange to talk about giving time off to keep employees motivated. But there’s strong data that shows that employees who use up their vacation time actually perform better than employees who don’t.

So, whatever your vacation plan is, encourage your employees to use it (some companies actually mandate vacation). And, ensure they really are on vacation while on vacation, meaning they stay away from emails and (hopefully) don’t think about work.

Just like a good night’s sleep is necessary for having a productive day, vacation is necessary for a motivated, engaged worker.

Tying it all together

Probably the easiest way to improve your bottom line is to motivate your employees. Unfortunately, according to the data, most employees aren’t overly motivated at their jobs, and it’s costing businesses a lot of money.

To change that, you have to tie what they care about – advancing their career, making a difference in the world – to your business needs. You can do that by providing them a path to advancing their career at your company, and by making your company about more than just making money.

That said, you need to put them in the best situation to excel as well. And that means encouraging them to take time off and telling them thanks when they do something exceptional.

*Image by October Jones via Boredpanda

To receive blog posts like this one straight in your inbox, subscribe to the blog newsletter.