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How to improve motivation in the workplace without money?

Written By

David Finney

Managing Director at The Energy of Conversation

Briefly Speaking

Looking for the right employee incentives? Find out how to increase your employees' motivation in the workplace without money or other standard business metrics.
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In answering how to increase motivation in the workplace without money, we must look at the emotional needs of an employee and first ask ourselves, how do we want to feel when we are at work? In doing this, we create the four cornerstones of job satisfaction:

Community – to feel that I am part of an interacting group

Worth –           to feel that I am heard, appreciated and valued

Inspiration –  to feel I am challenged and motivated into action

Growth –         to feel that I am continually learning and developing

In his legendary work FLOW, Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi speaks of two psychological processes:

  1. Differentiation – the need to stand out
  2. Integration – the need to fit in. 

This dual aspect can create internal conflict in the minds of employees and both must be addressed by the line manager.

If employees do not feel part of a local team or of the overall organisation, they will never be truly happy at work and this insecurity will provide constant interference which will distract them from fulfilling their potential. Although a sense of community can be encouraged in very simple and obvious ways, it is easy to neglect this fundamental aspect of human motivation.

Equally it is a basic human need to be appreciated. Without sincere appreciation and the occasional expression of gratitude, employees can quickly become resentful. Business leaders not recognising this and not maintaining it in their daily awareness risk losing their team’s commitment and attention. All employees must feel a deep sense of worth.

It has been well documented that the motivational value of salary increases and performance-related bonuses is limited and fairly short-term. Dan Pink, in his landmark work DRIVE, proclaims that once a person finds a task that he or she truly loves, external motivation is not only unnecessary but may even negate or diminish accumulated motivation levels. Leaders who are wondering how to improve motivation in the workplace without money need to keep this study in mind.

Every employee should be encouraged to adopt or design a special project which can provide balance in the working day. This project should be an initiative that benefits the organization and also develops the knowledge, confidence and skillset of the individual. Business leaders often feel responsible for motivating teams but they need to focus on providing individuals with the inspiration to motivate themselves.

The fourth cornerstone is about the importance of learning and development – personal coaching, group workshops, training courses – whatever is appropriate to the individual, their role and the organisation. Motivation in the workplace is lifted on multiple levels during effective L&D programmes:

  1. Knowing that the organisation has invested in personal development is motivational
  2. Support received by the line manager before and after the course is motivational
  3. Ideas and concepts gleaned from workshops or training courses is motivational
  4. Evidence that the learning can be applied in the working day is motivational

The growth of the individual in an organisation is critical to motivating employees, whilst effective and long term performance management is only fully achieved by addressing these four cornerstones of job satisfaction.

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2 Reader Comments Share your thoughts.

    David Cliff 2 years ago
    What do you think? Add your comment here.
    David Cliff 2 years ago
    Good article David, there are many ways modern management has apparently forgotten about motivation.

    This is what the article spontaneously brought to mind for me:

    Most of these can be subsumed under the article itself. Courtesy costs nothing, how and the way we communicate to others is critical. Sharing information, including the good and the challenging often requires presence of mind and sensitive timing before we start pulling in consultants for "management of change" seminars.

    Giving credit rather that promoting self is another and lets not forget the power of the old fashioned face to face, heartfelt, "thank- you".

    Most of all is the culture of the organisation one that is transparent and fair with opportunities for all. Can it truly celebrate difference and diversity or is "fitting in" a pre-requisite for employees to address rather than employers to facilitate.

    Thought provoking subject, as always.


    David Cliff