Employee motivation ideas don't have to come with an expensive price tag. There are plenty of low-cost tactics you can employ to help get your workforce charged up about what they're doing and to keep morale high, even during difficult times. Here are some suggestions:
Acknowledgment and communication
Say "Thank You"
Human Resources experts are still mystified at how infrequently supervisors and others within the company fail to simply say, "Thank you" to employees for the hard work they do. Even this minor acknowledgment carries meaning, as long as it's perceived as sincere and heartfelt and given for a specific achievement. Watch out for statements of companywide thanks that fail to single out an employee whose contribution goes above and beyond his or her peers. Also, be mindful of different personalities; an introverted employee may appreciate your words of thanks offered in private, while others will be pleased to have their names read out at a staff meeting.
Get your CEO Involved
Receiving a personal, handwritten note from the CEO can mean a great deal to employees. This simple action demonstrates that every individual's hard work is noticed (and appreciated) by those at the top.
Ask for Employees' Feedback
When employees feel valued, they may be motivated to work harder at their jobs. Brainstorming sessions are a great way to invite employee ideas (after all, they are the experts at what they do), and if some of their ideas become realized, they feel even more a part of the company's success.
Is a major change planned for your business sometime soon? If so, ask employees to share their thoughts on how this change will impact their individual roles. Being asked to participate in shaping the company's future, even in a minor way, can provide a sense of empowerment and spur greater motivation.
Share the Company's Vision
All too often, employees become disenchanted because they don't see how the work they do fits in the bigger picture. Taking time to communicate the company's vision and goals may help them understand why their role is important to future growth. Use every opportunity to reinforce this message through newsletters, staff meetings, one-on-one manager meetings, etc.
Add "fun" to the workplace
Other effective employee motivation ideas center around making the workplace environment more enjoyable and stimulating. (Remember, employees may be spending a major part of every day working for your business.) There are numerous options for injecting a lighter tone into the environment—everything from a "Bring Your Pet to Work Day" to an occasional happy hour after work on Friday with a small group of employees.
Here are some other ideas:
Food Can be a Powerful Motivator
A free lunch now and then may spark an employee's day. After completing an important project, for example, treat your employees to lunch at a popular restaurant. If employees are working late, order a pizza delivered. From time to time, surprise employees with bagels and doughnuts in the morning, or a mid-afternoon treat of ice cream or brownies.
Reward Hard Work with Gift Cards
Everyone loves to get something free, be it coffee at Starbucks or admission to a summer blockbuster at the movies. Gift cards are a relatively inexpensive way to show your appreciation. Employees understand when the company must operate on a shoestring budget, and will be grateful for this simple, but well-meaning gesture.
Offer Paid Days Off
Giving an employee a paid day off (in acknowledgment of special achievement) is another proven motivator. "Ultimately, this does cost money," notes entrepreneur Cherish Hope Reinwald, "but the reward of an employee who feels appreciated and who will give 110% is worth it."
Generating greater employee buy-in and motivation is something you really can't afford to ignore. That's what can make a small effort here and there so much more rewarding, especially when employees are giving so much back to your business.