Human Resources

Motivate with More Than Money

Financial rewards alone often generate only short-term boosts of energy.

January 14, 2014
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Studies have shown that for people with satisfactory salaries, some nonfinancial motivators are more effective than extra cash in building long-term employee engagement. 
Financial rewards alone often generate short-term boosts of energy, which can have damaging unintended consequences.
A postrecession survey by McKinsey Quarterly found that several noncash motivators can be more effective than financial incentives such as cash bonuses and increased base pay. Rated highest among survey respondents were:
  • Praise from immediate managers. Recognition and appreciation are key. Saying thank you, in an appropriate way, is easy to do but can often be forgotten or considered unimportant.
  • Attention from leadership signals the importance of retaining top talent. One-on-one meetings between staff and leaders make people feel valued, particularly during difficult times.
  • A chance to lead projects or task forces is a powerful way of inspiring employees to make strong contributions. Such opportunities also develop leadership capabilities, with long-term benefits for the organization.
These nonfinancial motivators play critical roles in making employees feel their companies value them, take their well-being seriously, and strive to create opportunities for career growth.
Ironically, 70% of organizations adjusted their reward and motivation programs during the recession—but relatively few have gone beyond cost management, according to McKinsey. 
Experts suggest many executives fail to make use of cost-effective nonfinancial motivators—even when cash is hard to find—because they are: 
  • Hesitant to challenge the traditional managerial wisdom: Money is what really counts. 
  • Unwilling to commit the time and effort to interact with staff at various levels.
Small CU advantage 
Managers at smaller credit unions have advantages over corporate bosses when it comes to motivating staff. Small firms frequently can offer staff rewarding and interesting jobs even if they can’t match the benefits that larger companies might provide.
Small firms—as opposed to the average global corporation— offer employees the opportunity to be more involved in the development of the business, according to Small Business Update. Managers and executives can ask for employee input and feedback on decisions in ways that big companies might find difficult. 
Credit unions typically feature minimal hierarchy, so communication is often good and employees feel involved. Management frequently has the flexibility to tailor roles to individuals, helping to improve job satisfaction.

Appreciation at Work

Tim Hepner
March 24, 2014 11:55 am
Great article! Unfortunately, most employees don’t feel valued or appreciated by their supervisors or employers. In fact, research has shown that the predominant reason team members quit their jobs is because they don’t feel valued. This is in spite of the fact that employee recognition programs have proliferated in the workplace – over 90% of all organizations in the U.S. has some form of employee recognition activities in place. But most employee recognition programs are viewed with skepticism and cynicism – because they aren’t viewed as being genuine in their communication of appreciation. Getting the “employee of the month” award, receiving a certificate of recognition, or a “Way to go, team!” email just don’t get the job done. How do you communicate authentic appreciation? We have found people have different ways that they want to be shown appreciation, and if you don’t communicate in the language of appreciation important to them, you essentially “miss the mark”. Additionally, employees need to receive recognition more than once a year at their performance review. Otherwise, they view the praise as “going through the motions”. A third component of authentic appreciation is that the communication has to be about them personally – not the department, not their group, but something they did. Finally, they have to believe that you mean what you say. How you treat them has to match the words you use. If you are not sure how your team members want to be shown appreciation, the Motivating By Appreciation Inventory ( will identify the language of appreciation and specific actions preferred by each employee. You then can create a group profile for your team, so everyone knows how to encourage one another. Remember, employees want to know that they are valued for what they contribute to the success of the organization. And communicating authentic appreciation in the ways they desire it can make the difference between keeping your quality team members or having a negative work environment that everyone wants to leave. Paul White, Ph.D., is the co-author of The 5 Languages of Appreciation in the Workplace with Dr. Gary Chapman.

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