5 Ways to Engage Employees When You Have No Money to Give

A cartoon employee is reaching for a money bonus

What you probably remember most about your employee engagement training is that it is important to recognize high performing employees. But how can you keep employees motivated if business circumstances or economic conditions are such that you have no money to give? 

The good news is that there are many other effective ways to reward and recognize superior performance than with money alone. Employee engagement research tells us that what matters most is that the reward is meaningful to the employee and given with genuine appreciation. Here, based upon employee engagement training participants, are some alternatives to the traditional money incentive:

  1. Simple thanks
    It is surprising how effective a pat on the back, the words “thank you,” or a handwritten note can be in fostering employee loyalty. It costs you nothing but a moment in time. For the employee, however, it feels enormously satisfying to be noticed for their extra hard work.
  2. Public praise
    Most employees really appreciate being recognized for a great job. They are proud to be singled out in front of their peers and publicly thanked. Be specific about what earned them special praise so others know what behaviors company leaders value.
  3. Flex time or an extra vacation day
    Many employees value flexible scheduling. Being able to come in late or leave early according to their personal and family needs is worth a great deal. Can you let some of your high performers work flex hours or work one day a week from home? Can you reward their extra effort with an additional day off? 
  4. Inexpensive but meaningful perks
    Be creative in your employee rewards. How about a dinner out for two for the employee who has had to work late all week and has missed time with their spouse? Or tickets to a pro football game for that sports enthusiast? Or a new lightweight laptop for your traveling sales rep whose arm is sore from toting their old one around?
  5. More responsibilities or access to leadership
    How about recognizing the value of key employees by giving them a better title and, with it, more responsibilities? There should be the promise of a raise to come but, in the meantime, you can show your confidence in them and in their future with the company.

Don’t neglect rewarding superior performance for lack of money to give away. There are many other ways to show your appreciation. Just listen to employee engagement training participants and make the award fair and meaningful.

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