January 9, 2019

Five incentives for employees than mean more than money

In HR, we all know the importance of engaged employees. Positive feedback, regular recognition and rewards are a great way to boost morale and increase motivation. If your business is looking to incentivise your staff, the first port of call may be to offer more money. But studies show most people are motivated by some things more than the size of their pay packet.

Here are five ways that will help get more out of your team without having to reach into your pocket:

A sense of purpose for employees

The main motivator is a sense of purpose – or feeling like you’re making a difference to others’ lives. As The Guardian puts it, “employees who feel like their work creates positive impact are more likely to feel fulfilled, promote their company and stay on the job longer.”

So how do you help your employees achieve that?

First, purpose comes from context, so let them in on the bigger picture. Meaning, helping them understand why you exist, your aims and how their role fits into helping the business make achievements. Allow interactions with clients or customers, so they know the people using your product or service and how it helps. And, most importantly, you should try to understand their career objectives. How can you make sure their role gives them the skills and experience they need to achieve them. That way they can see how their role also has a purpose in their personal ambitions as well as in broader ones.


Few things motivate us more than receiving proper recognition for our work.

We’ve all been in the situation where someone else has taken credit for what we’ve done (or conversely has lumped us with the fault for something that was a joint effort), so we also know how it feels not to receive our proper due.

Recognising the good work your employees do and the contribution they make to your success should be a matter of course. And it should be shared publicly so that everyone in the business knows the stellar contributions your people make.

It’s long been understood that recognition is one of the real keys to staff retention. But giving proper recognition won’t just make your employees more likely to hang around. One study showed 78% of employees were prepared to work harder for someone who recognised their work.


When you’re a business owner or senior manager, your livelihood depends on your employees doing a good job. So sometimes it can be hard to let go and let people get on with their work.

Of course, you need to check in on people and make sure they’re doing a good job. But not many people respond well to micromanaging – they prefer to be trusted.

If you have good staff you want to keep without paying them more, why not consider loosening the strings and giving them a little more autonomy? Employees with higher degrees of autonomy in the way they do their work also report higher levels of wellbeing and job satisfaction.


Linked closely to autonomy is flexibility. Many employees now have a legal right to request flexible working but I think to hold onto your best staff and keep them engaged and happy you should be doing more than just the legal minimum and opening up flexible working to all staff where you can.

Does it really matter where your employees’ work is done, so long as it’s done well? (I know the answer will be ‘yes’ for some employers but not for most.) Does it matter if your employees start their day at 6 am instead of 9 am or leave early one day to coach their kid’s sporting team or attend that class they’d always wanted to go to?

For employers looking to motivate staff without paying more, a little bit of flexibility can go a long way: a recent study on flexible working in a Fortune 500 company found that flexible workers achieved more, were sick less often, worked longer hours and were much happier in their roles than their peers.

A good culture

Just as crucial as an employee’s internal motivators are the external ones. And, for an employer, nothing is more important than culture. The atmosphere you foster and encourage – whether deliberate or not – will go a long way to determining just how motivated your staff really are.

However, as the Harvard Business Review notes, building a high performing culture with engaged staff is no easy task. It requires encouraging your team leaders to lead in highly motivating ways by training them correctly. Reinforcing what you do with regular huddles. Infusing a sense of play into what you do and making work pleasurable. And it means explaining the ‘why’ on every single project or piece of work people do.

If that seems like a lot of work, it usually is. But the good news is that if you can get culture right, the other keys to staff motivation often fall into place.

After all, you’ll attract the right kind of people and they, in turn, will attract more of the right kind of people. This virtuous cycle should mean you have to be less active in motivating staff as time goes on.

Ready to motivate your employees?

At Catalina Consultants, we can work alongside you to develop ways in which you can keep your workforce happy, engaged and motivated. If you’re ready to start brainstorming, then reach out to us.

say hi to our author

Merilyn founded Catalina Consultants in 2012 on the belief that all organisations, regardless of size, should have access to top quality bespoke HR services. She enjoys working closely with her clients and believes that the best results are built on relationships of rapport, trust and authenticity. Growing up, Merilyn had her sight set on stardom and dreamed of becoming an actor. She also sang and played the piano, but ended up studying accounting and HR. Whilst she hasn’t won her Grammy just yet, she still loves a good karaoke night. Merilyn loves to travel with her family, with South Africa being one of her most memorable destinations.

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