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How to Motivate your Employees with Gifts and Other Incentives

Motivation has been studied for years. Two well-known theories operate differently but have some common elements. Frederick Herzberg suggests five factors: achievement, responsibility, recognition for achievement, advancement, and the positive aspects of the job itself. Abraham Maslow envisioned a hierarchy of needs, in which each need is to be satisfied before an individual can work on a higher level. The first need is concerned with fundamental physical requirements – food, shelter and safety, while the final level is self-actualisation. Neither system focuses on financial rewards, except a most necessary means to an end such as in purchasing shelter and food in Maslow's theory. As the year winds down, employers might want to consider the most motivating approach to rewarding employees for their efforts. And as an extra incentive, often these non-money methods are more economical than the “large financial incentive” as well.

Some employers may feel that they do not have the time to provide recognition to their employees. After all aren't they expected to do their jobs? The truth of the matter is that motivating your workforce will have big payoffs in many aspects of your enterprise. The key is how you motivate others?

What Are the Best Motivators for Employees?

Contrary to some peoples' intuition, money is not the best motivator. And here is an excellent reason why. Often money is just considered as part of the salary. If you provide your employees with it, most will pay down debt or buy everyday items that do not result in uplifted spirits. Will providing your staff with a bonus have them come back from the holidays rested and ready for new challenges? It is unlikely that money will make a significant difference in their performance. In fact, many investigations support the notion that money may not be the best motivator at all It is better to provide them with a gift card for a special meal at an upscale restaurant or an event for the entire family to attend. Research supports this notion as well. “A Gallup survey into employee engagement interviewed 1.4 million people at every pay level, across every industry, in no less than 34 countries. And they too concluded that job satisfaction has little to do with money” according to Incentive. Most companies prefer that their staff have enough salary so that they can concentrate on their work and not expend their energy on earning more money. In another study outlined by Incentive, three groups of people were asked to perform a task, but the incentives for doing well were very different. Group A was offered a day's pay. Group B was offered two week's pay, and Group C was offered five month's pay. The results were that group A and B performed equally well, while Group C did worse. Those in group C were too focussed on the consequences of not doing well instead of the task they had to perform. What does this study suggest? Sometimes a modest amount of a bonus can have a positive effect. But when there is too much at stake, it interferes with performance.

What Does Work?

Instead, think about other ways to improve the lives of your employees. You can even send an enlightening message through gift giving of a tangible nature.

1. We Care About Your Health

Consider a Fitbit, gym membership, or even a yoga mat. But make sure the item is free from corporate logos and is not seen as just another way to market the enterprise.

2. Our People Care About Our World

Provide a choice of charity gift card so your employees can give back by donating to the charity of their choice.

3. We Honor Your Family

Give a gift that everyone in the family can enjoy. It could be a monthly gift card to the movies of their choice, a monthly selection of cheeses, speciality coffees or other gourmet foods, ski trips, and luxury boat weekends. Again provide a range so that the gift will meet the desires of different family situations.

4. We Value Your Time – paid vacations

This can be a week holiday or even a weekend getaway. Who doesn't come back from a holiday with renewed energy?

5. We Value Your Service – Praise

There are so many great ideas that cost very little. But recognition can carry tremendous value to your employees. And remember to make the praise visibly by offering a token so that other staff are aware of the recognition. “In a company survey, fifty-five percent of the respondents said that praise and attention from their supervisor would make them feel as if the company cared about them and their well-being” according to The Balance. This percentage far outweighed any other method of motivation.

6. We Value You as a Person - Show Respect At All Times

As a boss, it is important to develop a way to show respect in every situation and no matter what your true feelings are. Listen more than you talk. Treat all people in the same manner. Do not show favouritism or ignore people who may be difficult. Ask questions to demonstrate your interest. Use personal names to address people.

Request input from every person. Sometimes the shy or reticent individual has insights that will benefit the entire group. Thank all individuals for their contributions. Work with everyone's strengths. Give the organisational tasks to the organisers in your group. Let the creators manage the press releases. Have the social individuals plan the company events. Know your staff well enough to encourage them to use their strengths. And if someone is trying something new, pair them with a supporter.

At holiday time especially, recognise the diversity of faith in your workplace. Be aware of special days for all religious celebrations. Keep the festivities as inclusive as possible.

And if there is a time for a serious discussion with an individual, have that conversation in a private area, away from where others may hear. Praise in public, voice concerns in private.

7. We Value your Personal Development

Provide opportunities for more education. Pay for a course or s end an employee to a conference or meeting to engage in enlightening discussion. Provide cross-training opportunities.

8. We Value Your Individuality

Ask your staff for a list of motivating ideas. Start the survey with a checklist they can select from to get the ideas flowing and then provide an open ended spot for suggestions. You might be surprised by what they suggest.

9. Best Parking Spot in the Lot

Put this parking space close to the entrance of your work area for all to see. Include a sign recognising the person who occupies the spot for a month.

10. Trophy or Award

Present the award or trophy on a regular basis, whether it is every month of every quarter. Develop a system to recognise people's strengths, not just one aspect of the enterprise. Include awards the most effective email, best feedback from customers, best new ideas, best idea for a green environment

11. Standing Ovation

Gather everyone together to recognize an achievement.

12. Day Off

Let the employee select the day, make a poster to explain who is MIA with your permission.

13. Breakfast with the Boss

This can be a group event where you serve the breakfast or an individual way of rewarding a staff member. It would make sense to do this make the breakfast in honour of a few employees, not just one individual where the intent can be misconstrued.

14. Wall of Fame 

Post the photos of the employees and the reason for their awards on the wall of fame.

15. Recognition All Around

Have each employee write a note of appreciation to the employee of the month.

16. Grant Special Requests

Have a list of individual requests from which an employee can select to demonstrate your recognition such as: bring your pet to work, support your children's team, special lunch, etc. For small efforts leave gift cards in people's areas with a short personal note to recognise extra time at work, dedication to a project, innovative idea

17. Brag Boards

Have all staff brag about their accomplishments or those of others, whether it be about work or personal achievements.'

18. Everyone Counts

Include all staff in your appreciations, no matter what their role is that includes the cleaning staff and part-time people

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