Creative Ways to Motivate and Engage Employees without Spending a Dime

Julie Checknita, Employer Services | April-04-12
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Engaged employees are more likely to produce high quality work, optimize performance & exercise more critical thought and creativity resulting in maximized productivity, reduced turn-over rates, and increased revenue and customer satisfaction. So how do you get employees engaged and motivated to go above and beyond?

This is a question that talent managers all over the world are constantly working to answer. While there is no quick and simple answer to the question, there are several strategies being used by organizations that are yielding positive results. A recent article from identified 25 free ways to reward employees and improve productivity. Here are a few of my favorites:

Flex those hours. If there's one free reward that rises above the rest, it's flexible work schedules. Nearly every expert we contacted suggested flex time as a perk that offers the most gain with the least pain.

“Give a little latitude in determining work schedules and to take time for family or personal issues (such as doctor’s appointments and banking errands),” advised Richard Martin, president of Alcera Consulting Inc. “As long as the employee is deserving and doesn’t abuse the privilege, this can go a long way to building trusting and mature relationships with key workers.”

Make work fun. “During a business coaching engagement, I found employee morale to be way down,” said Terri Levine, president of The Coaching Institute. “We created a weekly event to boost morale. One week we asked everyone to bring in a baby picture, post it on a wall, then pick which person matched each picture. Everyone was having fun and socializing while productivity went from 58 percent to 72 percent — all in the same week.”

Reward effort as well as success. “Even if their ideas sometimes fail, you want employees to keep producing them,” said Alan Weiss, president of the Summit Consulting Group Inc. “When I consulted with the CEO of Calgon, we created an annual award for 'the best idea that didn't work' and presented a loving cup at the annual awards dinner. This stimulated innovation and positive behavior, not 'winning.'”

Give them a free pass. Levine suggests giving out a certain number of free days off to employees to use as they see fit. “Employees get a few of these a year and can use them as they like,” she said. “They don't have to pretend to be sick. They can go to the beach, read a book, play with their kids ... it doesn't matter.”

 Pass the bucks. Handing out monopoly money that can be redeemed for gifts and other goodies may not be strictly free, but it pays off handsomely in the long run. For example, associates at BankAtlantic can pass out “WOW Bucks” to colleagues who've done something outstanding. The bucks can eventually be traded in for real goods. There's a clear correlation that words of encouragement have created associates who perform at a higher level.

Elect them to the Wall of Fame. Several experts suggested setting aside a public space inside your firm and placing photos of employees who've accomplished something truly special, along with the details of what they did to earn their place on the wall.

Create your own "Club Med." Set aside a quiet space or unused office in your building where employees can meditate, chill out, nap or otherwise re-center themselves, said John Putzier, author of "Get Weird! 101 Innovative Ways to Make Your Company a Great Place to Work."

Publicize their successes. “We like to publicly recognize employees so the whole company can share in their accomplishments,” noted Scott Ragusa, president of contract businesses for staffing firm The Winter, Wyman Companies. “Each week, nominations for our quarterly 'Clutch' award are shared with the whole company. The Clutch nominations are a way to recognize our administrative and non-managerial professional staff members who have come through in the clutch in supporting their departments or the firm.”

Let them phone it in. Telecommuting programs can relieve stress and make workers feel more appreciated, as well as more productive. “Reward employees by starting with one day of telecommuting, then add additional days as performance heightens,” suggested Brian Margarita, president of IT staffing firm TalentFuse Inc. “Having the option to cart the kids to soccer practice, visit the beach during the afternoon or cut out early to avoid traffic congestion is becoming more important than working an 80-hour week for a larger paycheck.”

Remember the secret words. “The two most underused words in corporate America that get the highest ROI (return on investment) and ROT (return on your time) are the simple words 'thank you,'” noted Michael Guld, president of the Guld Resource Group.

While telling your employees you appreciate them should be obvious, added Amish, no one does it enough or is specific enough about what the employee did. “So when you share your appreciation, be specific about what you really liked, so they not only feel appreciated but can do it again.”

A recent ECO Canada study found that compared to 64% of workers in the overall Canadian labour force, 78% of environmental employees are engaged. So what are Canadian Environmental organizations doing to keep employees engaged? ECO Canada’s 2012 Best Practices Report: Creating Workplace Culture, revealed some of the most innovative HR strategies contributing to employee engagement.

Which Canadian Environmental company allows pets in the office? Which one has an office ping pong table? Read ECO’s HR Best Practices Report to find out.

Looking to measure employee engagement? ECO Canada partnered with Synovate to create Canada’s only Engagement Survey designed exclusively for environmental organizations. This program ensures that upon completion, organizations receive the clearest picture possible of the challenges and opportunities in increasing their employee engagement. Learn more.

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