3 Ways to Motivate Employees Without Spending Money

The Problem with Perks

Even as new rounds of financing are announced every week at high valuations, anxiety at technology companies sits just below the surface. Recent downgrades by Fidelity are one external signal of this anxiety. On top of that it is budget season and companies are deciding what to spend money on next year. In the world of talent management and human capital that means human resources teams are talking about perks.

Perks have become ever more extravagant as companies seek to attract and retain the best talent. But are they the best tool for this purpose? The primary problem with perks is that they cost money. As Silicon Valley anticipates a potential period of belt-tightening the ability to pay for perks may not keep pace with the perceived demand.

In addition, perks have diminishing returns over time. While the novelty at first generates a rush of excitement in employees, that excitement evolves into satisfaction and then to apathy over time. So as an employer it can feel like you are always seeking ever new, ever extravagant perks to delight employees.

But what if we rejected the premise that perks are the best way to attract and retain talent? And what if you could get the same impact without spending money?

A Different Way to Motivate Employees

In fact, research has shown that what truly drives happiness is shared experiences and a feeling of connectedness with your co-workers. In turn, happy employees perform better as individuals and as a team. Here are our top 3 ways to tap into this free strategy:

  1. Organize an employee recognition award every month or quarter. Using a free survey service allow employees on different teams to anonymously vote for the colleague who they most appreciate. Gather comments on why colleagues voted for the person. Give the award at a group meeting. You don’t have to provide a physical reward like a gift certificate, and some teams use a statue or other desk item that is passed around from person to person. This reminds everyone to show appreciation for their colleagues and also provides motivation that is based on building stronger relationships rather than things like compensation.
  2. Choose a free local event to go to as a team. Have your team choose an event to go to together every quarter. It doesn’t have to be work related, and should be fun for the whole team (so be sure to rotate through different types of events!). Getting your team out of the normal work environment can break down barriers caused by stress and the formality of the office.
  3. Host a potluck for an upcoming holiday. The trick with this potluck is to have everyone make a dish that was their favorite when they were growing up. It gives everyone a great story to tell and is an opportunity for employees to share a bit about their lives outside of work.
Read more about people management, employee engagement and company culture by Pomello