On the Street: How do you keep employees motivated?

The recession has caused many companies to cut back on awarding increases in salary—a method many managersHigh five! traditionally rely on as a motivator. Advantage asked its readers for suggestions on keeping employees motivated when budgets are tight. Here are their answers.


Use a personal touch

Isabel Graf

Isabel Graf

The most important thing is to know your employees and understand what is important to each of them. Then tailor your actions to fit the needs of the individual. A personal touch goes a long way! Here are some ways to do that:

• Hand write a thank you note or congratulations for a specific action an employee did. Use company note cards or blank cards. Be sure to acknowledge the effort the employee took.

• Celebrate birthdays—either individually or monthly. Send a card with a handwritten note, bring in bagels or a cake. Give the birthday person a hat or badge to wear on his/her special day.

• Create a ritual for celebrating goals or reaching milestones. At one company the manager called the group together, acknowledged each person who met goals, and asked them to ring a school bell. People looked forward to that five-minute celebration.

—Isabel Graft, principal
Insights 2 Talent,


Offer small perks

Tanya Guydos

Tanya Guydos

Since large salary increases have not been an option for our institution, the bank and its branches offer smaller perks to reward and recognize our teams. These include giving time off on the person’s birthday, gift cards for meeting goals, and the opportunity to attend offsite networking events. We also like to have monthly breakfasts or lunches as a way to say “thank you.”

—Tanya Guydos, vice president and branch manager
Florida Bank,


Give ad hoc awards

When raises are not an option, consider other ways to make employees feel good about themselves, which in turn will

Lucy Markert

Lucy Markert

motivate them to perform better. Some things to consider for rewarding individual performance include:

• Certificates for a job well done,

• Recognition on a wall-of-fame,

• High visibility work assignments,

• Gift cards and self-development books or training opportunities,

• Fun activities, such as a spa day, tickets to the symphony or a sporting event.

Although some of these recognitions have a cost associated with them, the ad hoc nature avoids developing an entitlement mentality, and giving these rewards is usually more effective in reinforcing a desired performance behavior—provided they are linked to the performance.

To reward team performance, consider pizza parities, barbeques, and end-of-day ice cream socials. These can provide a forum for you to send or reinforce company messages regarding performance, strategic business direction, and values.

—Lucy Markert, managing partner
The HR consulting Group,


Offer good benefits

Joanne Parks

Joanne Parks

Child care has its high and low seasons, and budgets are always tight. During the high (holiday) season, I provide performance bonuses as a way to keep employees motivated. But I find that a better motivator is providing benefits to my employees. We offer free healthcare to our employees as well as a matching 401(k)—something that is highly unusual in this industry.

—Joanne T. Parks, owner/director
Parks’ Place Daycare & Learning Center LLC,

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