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7 Cheap Ways to Motivate and Engage Employees


We all want to motivate employees, but not all of us have the endless budget to throw big parties, buy fancy ping pong tables, and pay big bonuses. These things only do so much anyway.

So how do we motivate and engage employees without breaking our bank? We put together some tactical ideas here for you to test out – they will take some time and effort, but they are sure to get your productivity up and turnover down.

1) Feedback & Recognition

Feedback and recognition are effective and cost-efficient ways of motivating employees. Even a simple “thank you” goes a very long way.

It’s not just positive feedback or recognition that motivates employees. Employees want to hear corrective feedback so that they can develop skills and progress in their careers. Of course, you have to do it in a constructive way – here is a quick feedback cheat sheet.

One other thing – many managers read this and think “I’m going to give recognition to James in front of everyone when I get back into the office tomorrow!”. This is not recommended. Many employees do not want public attention, and it may negatively affect other employees who didn’t receive the public recognition. When it comes to feedback and recognition, we think one-on-one is usually best.

2) Gamification

Most people love friendly competitions. Gamifying goals and tasks is a great way to boost morale and productivity. See some cool examples from these companies: Bunchball/LiveOps and Bullhorn SalesDuel.

3) Autonomy (at the right time)

Most people love having autonomy. Give autonomy to the employees who are ready to really own something and drive impact. Be careful though – make sure you provide autonomy at the right time, to the right people. See #4 in our article about what makes employees happy.

4) Mentorship

Encouraging mentorship relationships between leaders and employees is a great way for employees to hear new perspectives, and more importantly, build meaningful relationships. This could even take place in the form of “CXO for the day”, where employees get to shadow senior leaders in what they do day-to-day.

5) Celebrate Milestones, Not Just End Goals

Big goals can help employees stretch their capabilities and reach their full potential. It’s great for employee development. We should, however, not forget about celebrating progress and smaller milestones. Here are some ideas: take employees out to coffee/lunch/drinks, send a hand-written thank-you card, have a senior leader meet and appreciate them for their contribution, etc.

6) Change of Pace/Tasks

Biggest risk with high performers is that they will burn out. To help prevent this, try to inject some small changes in their work – whether it’s a short-term project in a different department, reduced work loads, different teams, etc. They will engage with the new elements in their work and come back refreshed.

7) Lunch and Learns

Hold monthly lunch and learns where employees do a “show-and-tell”. It could be anything – their work, hobbies, talents! It’s fun, educational, and will foster more meaningful relationships in the workplace!

These are some of the not-so-expensive ways of motivating and engaging employees. What else have you done? Let us know!

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