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5 Non-Financial Ways to Motivate Employees

By November 2, 2017February 6th, 2020Blog
Non Financial Ways to Motivate employees

5 Non-Financial Ways to Motivate Employees

As much as you would like to motivate employees by giving them more cash (and I am sure they would love that too), the reality is that financial restraints can mean there is no more money to share. Small Business, in particular, are often looking for ways to motivate employees without breaking the budget.

Non Financial Ways to Motivate employees

Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs

In research from the 1940’s, Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs found that people are driven to achieve specific needs. When one need is fulfilled a person seeks to meet the next one, and so on.

Once you meet the basic human needs (food, shelter, sleep, safety, stability, money), motivation comes from higher needs such as a sense of belonging, self-esteem and self-actualisation. This research is very relevant today in the workplace. Once you have provided an employee with a stable job and a decent salary, how do you continue to motivate them?


Here are 5 non-financial ways to motivate employees.

1. Say Thankyou

It costs nothing at all to say ‘thank you’ or ‘good job’. Acknowledging employees with immediate and straightforward feedback reinforces the right behaviour and motivates them to continue to produce great work in the future. Many managers forget to use the most accessible motivational tool in their kit, their appreciation.

Take this up a notch with more public recognition such as an email to the team recognising an employee or group of employee’s contribution or a monthly morning tea where you provide all employees with some coffee and cake and a few words of thanks. Consider having employees nominate each other for a ‘thank you’ award for helping them in their role. Peer acknowledgement can be just as powerful as management praise.

2. Offer Flexibility

Offering employees flexibility in how and where they perform their work can be a compelling motivator. Technology has opened up a whole world of options to allow employees to work remotely. Setting outcome-based expectations rather than an environment where employees have to perform the work in front of you fosters trust and makes them feel valued. Many employees produce better outcomes when they are not always restricted to the office and are responsible for managing themselves.

In survey after survey, employees list work-life balance as the most significant motivator after money. Offering even a small amount of flexibility to employees in regards to how and when they work, can increase productivity and make them happier when they are in the office.

Non Financial Ways to Motivate employees

Make employees feel they belong

3. Provide a Sense of Belonging

Human beings have a fundamental psychological need to feel like they belong to something bigger than themselves.  Feeling included and part of a ‘tribe’ provides feelings of security and a sense of purpose.

Your employees need to understand where they fit in. Take the time to communicate the organisation’s goals and purpose to your employees. Articulate their role and how it contributes to both the team and organisation objectives, so they understand how they fit into the big picture. Give regular feedback on how the company is progressing, so they feel included and are motivated to help the rest of their ‘tribe’ achieve their goals.

4. Challenge your Employees

The ego is a powerful motivator, and a sense of achievement gives the ego what it craves. You may not be able to give employees more money, but there are many ways that you can build a challenging environment that provides them with a sense of achievement.

Look for opportunities to stretch and develop your employees. Send them off for training or to an industry conference for their self-development. Put them on a project that will allow them to increase their knowledge or expand their role to add more responsibility. These strategies will enable you to build the skills of your team while providing career advancement opportunities to your employees.

Just make sure the employee understands why you are challenging them and the benefit to them. Be careful that the challenge you set will not set them up to fail. Stretching your employees too far can have the opposite effect and be a significant demotivating factor.

5. Make the Workplace Fun

Have you ever wondered why global companies like Google, Facebook and Airbnb spend millions building seriously cool workplaces? The tech industry, in particular, has embraced this concept. These companies realise that the environment and culture you create has a direct impact on an employee’s motivation and productivity.

Now we all don’t have the budget of these companies to purpose-build facilities around ‘fun’, but there are plenty of ways to bring some of these ideas into your office on a budget. Look around your workspace. Is it an inviting place to come into or are employees working in a bland, cubicle-filled space? Are there areas that employees can use to meet and collaborate? Have a look with fresh eyes and ask yourself would you like to work in this area every day.

I worked for a company that had a Social and Wellness Committee with representatives from across the organisation. They had a set budget every year and the freedom to decide how to spend it. The committee organised the end of year Christmas function, monthly ‘fun’ lunches and after work events such as ten pin bowling and movie nights. This budget was used for a flat-screen TV and coffee machine in the lunchroom, fruit boxes for healthy snacks and to subsidise gym memberships.

This initiative was successful because the employees decided how to spend the money based on their interests and needs. It had the bonus of bringing employees from different departments together which resulted in new collaborations and ideas.


There are many non-financial ways to motivate your employees. The real key is to ensure that you ask them what they want and accept that it may not be one size fits all.

Carli Saw

Author Carli Saw

Carli is a Human Resources professional with more than 20 years of experience across a range of industries and a passion for supporting small business.

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