There used to be a thought in management that money = work. You pay money to a person, and he or she will do a job. If you offer incentives, he or she will work harder. More money, better work. There’s a certain logic to the theory behind idea, but it falls apart in the cold light of reality.
Of course, every employee’s main motivation for coming into work is economic; they want to pick up a paycheck to pay their mortgage and car loans and buy more frozen pizzas. But to suggest that money is the only factor that motivates all people would be cynical in the extreme. While that may be true for a tiny fraction of your employees, there are a number of less expensive, more effective options to get the best out of the majority of your workers.
Better communication – Adopting a laissez-faire attitude to workers almost never works. It’s important to remember that the people who work for you are people, first and foremost. People are more motivated when they feel valued, and more confident about their work when they have constant feedback. Praising a worker for doing his or her job well encourages a sense of pride that sustains performance, while measured, specific criticism can spur a worker to try harder.
What’s interesting is that most employers habitually forget this, assuming money is the main motivating factor for employees. In surveys, managers consistently list “job security” and “good wages” as what they believe employees are most interested in. In reality, workers respond that they want to feel more appreciated and included.
Interesting opportunities – Even for the most motivated and capable employees, doing the same task over and over again can get tedious after a while. Giving your employees opportunities to introduce some variation into their workdays, allowing them to showcase their skills and leadership qualities, will give them an intangible but invaluable to perform at the peak of their capabilities.
Google, for example, mandates that employees use 20% of their time as free time, essentially paying its employees to do whatever they feel like. What sounds like license to slack off has instead given Google employees the time to innovate on their own and come up with some of the tech giant’s signature products.
Both of these suggestions will do more than motivate the employees that work for you. Creating an environment where employees are satisfied and the work is engaging and varied will give your business reputation as a place where the most capable employees want to work, sometimes for less than they might elsewhere.