How to Motivate Your Staff with Non-Financial Incentives

One of the most pressing challenges you will face in running a company is motivating your staff. We all would like to think our employees simply love coming into work every day, and that they need no motivation. But this is a fairy tale. You need to find ways to encourage hard work.

There are many different ways you can do this. For most companies, the best way of motivating people has been to offer them more money. But this has its limitations, not only financially but also psychologically. Coming up with ways to motivate your staff without offering money is necessary for boosting productivity and also protecting your bottom line.

Here are some ways you can push people to do better without offering bonuses:

Tap into their intrinsic motivation

Inside of all of us, there is a little fire that pushes us forward. The bigger the flame, the harder we work. And this is entirely separate from how much money we’re making. Think of entrepreneurs who go years without earning any money; something had to keep them going.

The truth is, when people are happy, but more importantly, when they find purpose and meaning in their work, they are more productive, and they are willing to work harder. When people feel like all their working towards is their paycheck and a bonus, this sucks the life out of their work. They’ll soon hit a wall and stop feeling the desire to be productive.

Finding ways to make the work about more than just the work is critical to motivating people without money. But this is a somewhat longer-term strategy, as it will ultimately require changing company culture. You’ll need to identify what you do that inspires, and work to make these central aspects of your culture. It will take time, but when you do this, you’ll find people much more willing to work harder, even in the absence of financial incentives.


Nearly everyone enjoys some healthy competition. It’s why office March Madness pools are always so popular. Not everyone watches basketball, but it’s fun to get in on the action.

Implementing competitions and other forms of gamification into the workplace are a great way to get people working harder. Often times there doesn’t even need to be a real prize at the end. The simple experience of “winning” is enough. But if you can offer something small as a reward, such as half-day off each week in the summer, gift certificates to local restaurants, t-shirts, etc., it helps make things a bit more interesting.

Sales competitions are great for this, or you could implement some sort of race for completing certain tasks. Putting people on teams is also good, as it encourages collaboration and team spirit.

Do be careful with this, though, and make sure to stress what you’re doing is “friendly competition.” If a few people get too carried away, your competition can have the opposite effect and actually sour people to the task at hand.

Reward them with time

What’s that saying? Time is money. Well, it is, and it isn’t. Paying people to be in an office but to not do anything is not making good use of time. Most employees would say they can do their jobs in less time, but they don’t because they are required to be in the office 8 hours a day.

One way to work against this, and to encourage people to work harder, is to offer the chance to leave work when a job is finished. Or, you don’t even need to tie this to performance.

Introducing summer schedules with half days on Friday’s, allowing people to take a little extra time at lunch a few times a month or giving people the chance to work from home are all effective ways of encouraging people to work harder. If they know they have a half-day Friday and a round of golf waiting for them, they’re much more likely to dig in and get the job done.

Give them what they wouldn’t buy

Bonuses are nice, but one of the reasons they aren’t always so effective is that people don’t get to really feel their benefit. A lot of times financial rewards are spent on more practical things, such as buying a new car, redoing the siding on the house, paying college bills and so on. And while these are all important, once the money is spent, it doesn’t really feel like a reward anymore.

The response to this, and one that will save you a little money as well, is to offer people things they might not buy on their own. If you have golfers in the office, consider giving out free rounds to the local course. You could send premium, freshly roasted coffee to the homes of coffee lovers, or you could sign those interested up for meal delivery services. Offering people, a wide range of rewards and letting them choose which one is best is the most effective way of doing this.

In many ways, it’s similar to when companies offer gifts to employees when they complete work anniversaries. But you should do it more often than every five years.

Doing this will still cost you money, but you’ll spend less than if you hand out bonuses. And people will feel the effects of these rewards more, encouraging them to stay motivated at their jobs.

Who needs money, anyway?

Making use of non-financial rewards systems is great for both you and your employees. It saves you money, and it also helps people find meaning in their work beyond their paychecks. Implement these strategies into your incentive programs and you’ll likely see productivity, and, more importantly, employee satisfaction go through the roof.

About the author: Raj is a business owner and entrepreneur. He knows the value of a happy and motivated workforce

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