Practical ideas for motivating staff when reward spend reduces

By Jacqueline Benjamin

Keeping staff engaged and motivated is a major challenge for any employer, even more so when budgets are tight. From public sector pay caps, to reports of national wages struggling to keep up with inflation it’s clear that many employers aren’t exactly flush with cash with which to reward and motivate their staff. But employers shouldn’t necessarily get hung up on the size of their reward budget. There are plenty of ways to motivate staff that won’t break to the bank. Here are a few ideas:

Appeal to your team’s values
There’s evidence to suggest that the values of an organisation (including factors such as “doing meaningful work” and working for a company that “benefitted society”) are more important than salary for 44% of employees. The same survey found that 53% of millennials would work harder if they felt they were making a difference to others. That’s pretty compelling evidence about the link between organisational values and staff motivation, engagement and productivity. With that in mind, be clear about what your values are and how these influences your organisation’s contribution to society, whether via CSR, community engagement or other such initiatives.

Say ‘thank you’
Distinct from salary and benefits, employee recognition has an important role to play in motivating and engaging staff. Moreover, you don’t necessarily need any budget to recognise your employees’ achievements. It sounds simple but saying thank you is a very effective motivator. A study by Glassdoor, for example, found that 80% of employees would be willing to work harder for an appreciative boss and 70% said they’d feel better about themselves and their efforts if their boss thanked them more regularly. Social recognition – saying ‘thank you’ in public or via a publicly visible platform – can be even more powerful, so consider how tools such as LinkedIn, Yamma and Facebook, as well as internal platforms such as staff intranet or reward and recognition programs, can help you amplify your message of appreciation to team members.

Give your team non-financial rewards
When it comes to employee recognition and engagement, allowing staff to nominate each other for non-financial awards can be a hugely effective motivator for staff and we have seen this used to great effect with many of our own clients. Awards should be tailored to the culture and demographic of an organisation but some great examples that we have seen include things such as an extra hour in bed, a day off, or even being awarded use of a coveted parking space for a month. Whilst there may be a nominal “cost” associated with some these, in terms of lost labour for example, non-cash awards such as this can be a very effective use of available resource. Other non-financial rewards could include giving employees the opportunity to pursue a personal interest within their role, to lead projects or to embark on learning and development opportunities.

Offer flexible working
Research suggests that homeworkers and partial homeworkers are happier, more engaged and more likely to work in excess of their contracted hours. It’s becoming increasingly popular, is free to implement and, over time could even allow for a more efficient and savvy use of your real estate.

Be savvy with your employee benefits
According to the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD), employee benefits “can account for up to around 40% of the costs to organisations of employing staff.” In short, they can be expensive. But, if you are savvy with which benefits you choose to offer, you can make a huge difference to your employee’s lives, at very little cost, time and effort. As employee benefits go, offering an employee discounts scheme is a really cost effective option as whilst employers will manage and pay for the administration of the scheme, staff redeem those offers out of their own salaries. Whether it’s supermarket vouchers that help with the weekly shop or discounted tickets to the latest music events, discount schemes offer a range of money saving opportunities for your staff.

Employee recognition can be one of the best ways to motivate your team. Download our free e-book to find out more about how to build an effective recognition strategy.