4 Ways to Boost Employee Motivation Without Spending Money

Zig Ziglar, motivational expert and beloved American salesman, famously observed,

People often say that motivation doesn’t last. Well, neither does bathing — that’s why we recommend it daily.

It’s true: employee motivation requires regular nourishment to thrive, but pays dividends in the form of increased productivity, improved job performance, and reduced turnover in return.

As a manager, it’s critical to abandon the fallacy that employee motivation is a fixed attribute. Rather, this make-or-break phenomenon that exercises such a heavy influence on company success is a reactive state that arises — or fails to arise — in response to work environment, leadership style, quality of peer-to-peer relationships, company culture, sense of professional  purpose, and much more. 

This article will give you 4 creative ideas to improve employee motivation without spending money.
This article will give you 4 creative ideas to improve employee motivation without spending money.

Employee motivation is driven by seemingly innumerable factors. Companies with cultures most conducive to employee motivation have well-established infrastructures in place to replenish the phenomenon through a wide variety of initiatives.

Investing in employee motivation has a tangible impact on company success and delivers an impressive, compelling ROI — companies with high employee motivation outperform their low-morale counterparts by as much as 20%.

While some employee motivation initiatives require companies to spend money, others don’t cost a thing. The latter is the topic of this article. While experts do recommend incorporating a combination of both funded and free efforts to support employee motivation at your organization, the five strategies shared below are a great springboard to refresh employee motivation without spending money.

If your teams are parched for their daily dose of motivational nourishment, try one of these strategies to help:

1. Encourage Task Variety

One of the most common misconceptions that managers hold about how to improve employee motivation is that, if you want your team to be highly motivated, you should allow them to perform the tasks they love most as often as possible.

Boost employee motivation by encouraging task variety.
Boost employee motivation by encouraging task variety.

While it’s true that an important element of helping employees feel satisfied and compelled to exert maximum effort at work is giving them opportunities to work on tasks and projects they personally find fulfilling, the clichè that “variety is the spice of life” rings true.

Motivational expert Ovidiu-Iliuta Dobre recommends managers promote both horizontal and vertical job growth when making efforts to support employee motivation.

By vertical job growth, Dobre means the pursuit of mastery in the skills that employees like best, the things that they eventually strive to become experts at.

By horizontal job growth, Dobre means diversifying an employee’s skill set so that they gain experience across a variety of functions, contributing to an increased quantity of their skills and capabilities in addition to improved quality.

Even if it’s their favorite activity in the world, doing the same single task day in and day out is eventually going to grow monotonous and take a toll on employee motivation. Avoid this pitfall by ensuring employees have plenty of variety in the makeup of their day-to-day activities.

2. Give Volunteer Time Off

Another fantastic way to boost employee motivation without spending money is by offering employees opportunities to take time off of work, not just for personal relaxation, but to spend giving back to their communities.

When you fulfill their need for a sense of purpose, employee motivation soars.
When you fulfill their need for a sense of purpose, employee motivation soars.

Today’s workforce is dominated by millennials, who now represent 35% of the overall workforce. Millennials especially are known for being incredibly purpose driven — so much so that many millennials say they would forego a position with higher pay in exchange for the feeling that they’re driving meaningful progress in the world at large.

But it’s not just millennials. Across all generations, employees who feel they have a sense of purpose and meaning at work are significantly more motivated, which also breeds better job performance and higher employee engagement.

By giving employees the opportunity to spend 8 office hours giving back to the local community instead, you will boost their motivation by feeding into their innate need for a sense of meaning and forge a strong connection between your company and your community.

3. Offer Lunch With a Senior Executive

The opportunity to have lunch with a senior executive is yet another creative idea for boosting employee motivation. Technically, this suggestion might incur the cost of lunch, but given that both the employee and the senior executive are going to be eating anyway, we’re still counting it as an idea for boosting employee motivation without spending money.

Lunch with a senior executive is a creative, low-cost way to boost employee motivation.
Lunch with a senior executive is a creative, low-cost way to boost employee motivation.

Whether you’re seeking a low-cost prize to incentivize an important sales SPIFF or a way to thank an employee going above and beyond, this is a meaningful gesture that can do a lot to heighten employee motivation.

Having lunch with a senior executive, whether it’s the CEO or the head of an employee’s respective department, makes employees feel seen and can be an important professional development opportunity. It leaves the employee with a memorable experience they won’t soon forget.

4. Give Non-Monetary Recognition

Finally, one of the most effective and reliable strategies for boosting employee motivation is simply by recognizing employees for significant contributions to company success and the completion of major professional feats.

Non-monetary recognition can do a lot to drive employee motivation.
Non-monetary recognition can do a lot to drive employee motivation.

Many people mistakenly believe that recognition has to be accompanied by a reward with monetary value. While it’s true that monetary recognition drives more of a punch, non-monetary recognition still does a lot to boost employee motivation. As an added bonus, because non-monetary recognition doesn’t cost a dime, it can be delivered as frequently and generously as the recognizer sees fit (so long as they have access to a streamlined platform that keeps delivery efficient).

To imbue non-monetary recognition with maximum meaning, be sure to deliver it in a social setting, such as a company-wide social feed, so peers get the opportunity to pile on the praise and make the echo of appreciation ring.

Final Thoughts

For any manager in search of strategies to replenish employee motivation, these ideas are the perfect place to start. Though they won’t cost your company a dime, they’re still highly effective tactics for increasing employee motivation which ultimately drives an increase in performance and translates into overall company success.

Katerina Mery is a Marketing Specialist at Fond with a background in cognitive psychology and a passion for improving the way people live and work. She especially enjoys learning about how to accomplish this through rewards and recognition. In her spare time, you can find Katerina running outside, admiring art, and exploring the latest and greatest local restaurants.