Several Fortune China readers have recently asked the following question:
“With a tough economy it is difficult to meet our employes’ expectation of salary increases. How can we motivate them in other ways to keep them from leaving the company?”
This is an excellent question for leaders to consider. An even better question is “What really motivates people in an organization, besides money?”
Good work deserves recognition when it comes time for salary reviews. And, there are times when, to keep the business afloat, leaders have to tighten their belts and find other ways to recognize strong performance. All of us like money, and, the truth is, few of us work for money alone. I once worked for 4 years in a job I loved, for relatively low pay, because it was so enjoyable. The nature of the work itself, the perks and the working environment made it worthwhile for me to stay in the job, and I was recognized as a top performer. In other words, the “Intrinsic” rewards and motivators were so high that I didn’t care too much about the “Extrinsic” motivators. Here is what these words mean, in case they are new to you:
Intrinsic means “in the thing itself.” In other words, an intrinsic motivation comes from inside, not from outside. Examples could include values, rapport with boss and colleagues, working environment, we like the kind of work and it satisfies us in important ways. Salary is not really a factor in intrinsic motivation. We simply find the job and the working environment satisfying at a personal level.
Extrinsic means “from outside.” Extrinsic motivations might include salary, bonuses, public recognition, job benefits, and other rewards that come from the organization.
Retaining strong performers requires a good balance of both intrinsic and extrinsic motivational factors. Here are five ways to pump up motivational factors that may help with retention during tough times. None are guaranteed, however, there is always “something greater than zero” that you can do to show your sincere appreciation of good work.
1. Recognition.Recognizing a person’s strong contributions can take many forms. Examples include:
• Taking someone to lunch and letting them know how much you value their performance and thanking them for their loyalty.
• Publicly recognizing someone’s performance with details of what they did and expressing gratitude for a job well done.
• Certificates of Recognition for ‘extraordinary contributions to the business and the organization.” These are best presented at annual events or company retreats where the recipient will feel pride in the presence of their peers.
2. Spot Bonuses.If you can’t afford to give deserving people a raise, at least give them 20% of the amount they would have received annually if they had received a raise. Let them know, personally, that you wish it could be more, and that until business is better, this is the best you can do. Perhaps add a personal gift with their name on it as another token of your gratitude. Many people will appreciate the gesture of a spot bonus and it takes some of the sting out of their disappointment.
3. Motivational Climate.Take a look around at the work environment and do whatever you can to make it a more pleasant place. Redecoration, better work spaces and desks, a fully equipped pantry with free coffee and tea, longer breaks, pastries in the pantry in the morning, expanded employee lounges….there are many ways to upgrade a working environment that are not expensive and will be appreciated by those who spend 8-10 hours a day working there. If you aren’t sure what to do…ask your employees what they would like in terms of a better working climate, and, within your budget, do your best to accommodate their requests. Make it clear that you are doing this ‘in recognition of your strong contributions’ until the business improves.
4. Celebrations.If you can’t afford to give every deserving employee a raise, invite them to a party or a retreat to simply celebrate their good work. Take them off-site for a day or two of fun, do some team-building exercises that are fun and motivating, feed them well, publicly recognize people with sincere praise (and perhaps Certificates of Recognition) and tell them how much you appreciate their hard work and loyalty. Ask them to help you achieve your business goals so that next time you can reward them in more tangible ways. Conduct group brainstorms on ways to increase business results and put the ideas into motion, recognizing the team for their ideas. Have a photographer capture key moments and provide high quality prints to all participants, personally signed “with gratitude” by yourself and other senior leaders.