Interestingly, money — whether a bonus or a raise in salary — is often not the key motivator for employees. Of course, money is always welcome — no one is going to turn down a raise, unless it comes with unacceptable conditions — however, bonuses are initially heavily taxed and then frequently spent quite quickly. Likewise, employees soon become accustomed to a salary increase and simply adjust their lifestyle to fit — six months later they may see no appreciable benefit. Does this mean employers should institute a salary freeze? By no means, cost-of-living raises are only fair and people do deserve to have their efforts or increased skill levels suitably rewarded.
Nevertheless, there are other ways to motivate employees that may be far more effective than an increase in salary. Demonstrable appreciation, more vacation time, flexi-time, better working conditions, shorter working hours, offering ongoing educational and personal development programs, social events and engendering team spirit may all succeed in motivating people. A surprising number of workers, for example, when asked if they would prefer a raise in salary or more vacation time, opted for more vacation time. A change in the work/life balance may be a considerable inducement for many people and it is likely to have side benefits in reduced stress, leading to happier employees and fewer sick days, which lead in turn to higher productivity — a 'win-win' situation.
Not all employees are created equal; depending on where they are in their career and what their family situations are, motivation will vary. The chance to pursue a course to improve skills and possibly earn a promotion is likely to be far more attractive to younger employees than to someone within two years of retirement for example. Likewise, employees with young children are more likely to value flexi-time or a greater allotment of vacation days.
Showing appreciation is such an obvious solution to the motivation question and yet it is overlooked surprisingly often by employers. Many of us fall into the trap of complaining when something is wrong while barely noticing when everything goes right. Everyone wants to feel special; showing appreciation can range from a simple 'thank you' for a job well done or for going the extra mile, to a tangible reward. Recognizing a particular employee's achievements publicly can be tremendously motivating, both to the employee and to others who may be stimulated to achieve the same recognition.
Social events and team-building exercises can also help engender a feeling that the workforce is like a large extended family and that everyone is valued and appreciated. Recognizing milestones in people's personal lives; birthdays, weddings, engagements, births of children, etc. shows that management is interested in the employee as a person, not just a cog in the wheel and organizing social events for holidays or special occasions provides light relief.
Having an effective mentoring program and affording all employees access to professional development and the possibility to update skills or earn a promotion is also a no-brainer. Updating skills and competencies is essential to the efficient running of any business and helping employees to climb the ladder will both motivate and encourage employee retention. Employees who feel they can go no further with their present company, or are not being encouraged to develop their career, are employees that will be searching the employment ads for a position where they can indeed achieve their goals.
InSite offers an integrated suite of applications, providing a cost-effective way to develop and deliver online learning, compensation and performance management programs to businesses anxious to motivate their employees and optimize their organizational talent.