There are all kinds of ways to motivate employees, without spending big money.
Time off. In fact, Dave Worman, a Ottawa, IL, employee motivation consultant and former sales center manager and national sales manager for The Reliable Corporation, learned from experience with hundreds of employees that time off is the biggest motivator.
“Most people rank time off as their top motivator, or very close to the top,” Worman explained. Why? “Because it is natural for everyone to want time away from their job for individual time, more time with family and extra curricular activities. It’s that natural tendency to want what’s hardest to have or get.”
Worman continued: “The beauty of it is that you can set up time off so that it has to be earned and therefore everyone wins. You stretch the goals or expectations a little and the employee must exceed the normal to earn time off. You end up with more productivity or higher quality than you would have normally gotten. The employee gets to leave early or come in late, after being more successful than they would have been.”
It’s easy to see how this incentive can apply to sales people. But how can an employer apply it with clerical, retail, professional, manufacturing and other non-sales employees?
“No matter what industry you’re in, paid time off will be a tremendous motivator,” Worman said. “In some environments it’s obviously easier to create opportunities for time off than in others. In some retail, restaurant and manufacturing environments, very specific personnel coverage is necessary, minimizing the opportunities for developing time -off programs. Whenever you can set performance standards or productivity measures you can probably structure some programs that utilize time off as the reward.”
Worman explained further: “Think about what happens. If someone is willing to work hard and dedicate themselves all week to reaching and achieving 110 or 120 percent of their goal or quota – why not let them go early? Would you have gotten 110 or 120 percent if you hadn’t put the ‘time off’ in front of them?”
You can also take the concept of percent over goal/quota and attach it to a non-sales environment. In a clerical position perhaps there is a set amount of work that must get completed either in a day or week, plus a little extra that could get completed. As long as the quality of the work at hand does not suffer in any way you can offer a couple hours of time off to this person when they achieve all the work before them.
Gags and gimmicks. Time-off for employees is only the start to cost-free and low-cost motivating. Worman also learned that “gags and gimmicks” can be motivators for all types of employees in all types of work settings. Here’s how he explained this strategy: “I have found over the years that gags and gimmicks are more popular than even cash in many cases because they provide creative or unique ongoing stimulation. Why? Because you’re playing with people’s self esteem, their pride. The way that gags and gimmicks represent positive motivation is when they have status attached to them.”
For example, look at one of Worman’s most popular recognition rewards, the “CAN DO.” Simple, inexpensive and extremely effective in any environment. Worman purchased 12-oz cans of Mountain Dew by the case and gold peel-and-stick labels and then he signed or initialed them. When there was a supervisor or manager between the associate and Worman, they also signed or initialed each label. Then once a week (or every two weeks or every month) the individual employee that Worman or the manager felt exemplified or most represented the “CAN DO” attitude was awarded a signed can.
And – most important – this was done in front of other employees. “That’s where you get double stimulation,” Worman explained. “The employee who receives this ‘status symbol’ is naturally stimulated and so are all the others who didn’t, but now want the same public recognition.”
Job titles. Another no-cost motivator is job titles. There are employers who are dropping job titles in favor of a flat organization. Some futurists predict the “flat” organization is the organization of the future. But Worman learned the value of job titles to motivate employees.
“The value of a job title is far more important than one might think or expect,” Worman explained. “Once again, this taps into the very essence of self-esteem and pride within people. That’s why it’s important. Futurists certainly may be correct in their predict of more ‘flat’ organizations but until then it is an issue we all deal with. Do your employees feel important? Do their job titles make them feel that they are important? If so, great. If not, then it’s an issue that you should revisit. Too often employers don’t even feel this is important so they never look into changing or revamping old titles or the overall impact on the people.”
Theme contests. Are there ways for a non-sales team or non-sales workforce to apply theme contests, one of Worman’s favorite ways to motivate employees?
“Contests can really only be effectively implemented in work environments that have some type of performance productivity standards attached to them,” Worman said. “But this certainly represents a wide variety of industries. While sales environments obviously offer natural opportunities for contests, sales departments are only one of many different types of work environments that implement contests.”
Other types of workplace environments that use contests effectively are:
- Fast food restaurants that run contests to see what individuals, teams, and stores can cross-sell food products with other purchases better than someone else.
- Manufacturing companies that run performance contests for frontline employees or production people all over the country.
- Retail stores and chains that compete within themselves and with each other in organized contests.
- Professional offices that use contests of some sort to improve productivity as well as quality of work.
“The theme part is the easy part,” Worman said. “Just create special contests that highlight certain holidays, special events or specific activities. Theme contests allow people to dress a little differently or special, and provide the opportunity to authenticate your environment with props or decorations. That’s part of what makes them so successful.”