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Motivate Employees: 19 Creative Ideas
By: Susan Fee

How do you motivate your staff when you can’t afford to give them a raise? Use a different kind of currency. Contrary to popular belief, money is not the best motivator because it sends the message that nothing is worth doing unless you get paid extra. A sense of entitlement can develop that is a bottomless pit.

Surveys have shown that employees respond much better to a different kind of currency: personal attention. Employees want to be recognized as individuals, shown appreciation, and be given opportunities to grow. This requires bosses to manage one-on-one rather than treating every employee alike. Here are some low-cost ideas for motivating your staff that can have a big return on investment.

1. Call an employee into your office just to say thank you without discussing any other issue. 2. Write a thank you card or e-mail. 3. Send a thank you card to the employee’s spouse/family thanking them for their support. 4. Create an employee newsletter to share news, updates, and recognize employees. 5. Create a bulletin board for employees to share news, hobbies, pictures, and recognition. 6. Celebrate birthdays, anniversaries, and special achievements. 7. Reserve the best parking spot to be awarded to an employee-of-the-month. Let staff decide how the spot is earned. 8. Encourage comments from the public/customers and post praise. 9. Add a note to an employee’s paycheck highlighting something great he or she did that week. 10. Join in and help an employee who is under pressure. Ask what can be done and help complete the task side-by-side. 11. Create a change of pace by giving employees a chance to work on exciting projects or learn new skills. 12. Delegate worthy projects, not just menial tasks, to increase feelings of trust and pride. 13. Create light-hearted awards that highlight something unique about each person like, “Best Screen Saver,” or “Best Joke Teller,” and award them at a potluck lunch. 14. Pass on helpful articles that could benefit employees. Attach a note saying, “Saw this and thought of you.” 15. Ask employees about their hobbies, families, children, pets, etc., showing interest in what matters most to them. 16. Ask an employee who is proficient in a certain area to train others, or make a presentation at a staff meeting. 17. Book a community speaker to come and speak on subjects of interest to employees (even if they are unrelated to work) like personal finances, stress management, or improving relationships. 18. Help build skills with a training library filled with books, tapes, and other resources that employees can check out. 19. Allow employees to attend seminars and ask them to make a presentation to others sharing what they learned.

Susan Fee is a licensed counselor and communications expert. She is the author of Positive First Impressions: 83 Ways To Establish Confidence, Competence, And Trust. She can be reached at

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