Beyond Compensation: How to REALLY Motivate Employees

Although we know compensation is the number one reason people leave companies, pay isn’t the only factor in employee engagement. Pay meets the basic need, but what comes next? The truth is, there’s a science to motivation that really works and it’s backed by proven research and psychology.

It might seem like motivating employees isn’t, or shouldn’t, be that complicated, but anyone who has ever attempted to motivate their team knows just how tough it can be. When you remove fear tactics and temporary, fleeting motivations and look at what motivates your people for an extended period of time, what you’re left with is what is scientifically proven to drive people to excel.

Employee Engagement Begins with Great Managers

Your employees may be in their seat every day because of the paycheck they receive, but as we’ve all seen, that’s not what pushes them to do their very best on a daily basis. Instead, workplace engagement is based on the unwritten social contract between employers and employees. Because of this, how managers interact with their workforce has a direct affect on employee performance, productivity and engagement. Knowing what drives your people will give you the power to push them to be better.

Although a paycheck may not be what pushes people to be engaged at work, it is important to note that an adequate salary is your ticket in the door to motivating employees. It won’t pull the best out of them, but without that foundation of adequate compensation, there’s not an effective way to build a motivation strategy. This is a struggle for many companies, as shown in PayScale’s 2015 Best Practices Compensation Report, which found that 22% of employers report the inability to offer a competitive wage.

Equity pay issues and across-the-board wage increases have been making negative headlines recently, but an organization that doesn’t offer a competitive wage has every reason in the world to consider a pay increase for a location, pay band or group of employees with the same job title.

Beyond the paycheck 

Aside from pay issues, there are ways you can tap into your employees’ psychological motivators and help them be the best they can be.

Consistent Conversations about employee compensation

No matter what your company’s position is on annual reviews, that shouldn’t be the only time you ever hold conversations about performance, expectations, workload and strategy with your team. One of my first bosses was the best example of this I’ve ever seen. She invested time in her employees every day and saw us all grow professionally over time. We respected her opinion and wanted to deliver the best work we could. I like to use my previous boss as someone who I can model for those behaviors and implement them in how I engage, relate and build rapport with my own team.

Prioritize Relationships

You should know which of your employees need extra motivation, which relationships need to be cultivated and which team member needs a boost this week. If you don’t get back to those constant conversations, listen and build that rapport. Don’t be afraid to step in when a particular employee needs your support or motivation. Swing by their cubicle and casually touch base. Be fair and don’t play favorites, but keep your ear to the ground and know where you’re needed.

Find common ground

Every team member is unique.Finding what motivates them to how you bond over your favorite flavored coffee or sports team will be unique too. You should also know what each team member needs to be motivated. Knowing each person’s personal and professional motivations is powerful for you.

One of my recruiters needed to be motivated through a special form of incentives. I often challenged him that if he met his staffing goals for the week, he could work from home on Thursday and Friday. This was extremely different from my other recruiter who was looking for development opportunities. He was energized when I motivated him for our corporate social media council where he could build relationships, travel and work with other departments.

Increasing Touch Points 

Everyday you probably have multiple opportunities to motivate, encourage and uplift employees, but many of us tend to stick to one place and method of doing so. I like to schedule myself time to MBWA or Management By Walking Around. Build those relationships, touch base with your colleagues and just be available to provide support and answer questions. Step out of your box and think of ways and places you can do this that will be new, fresh and motivational.

Share your expertise

We want to hear your best suggestions for keeping employees motivated. Tell us about what worked and what didn’t in the comments section below.

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