Motivating beyond money – reward and recognition tips for SMEs

Jamie Mackenzie of Sodexo Exchange sets out the options
Jamie Mackenzie

When it comes to motivating staff, money is often mistakenly identified as the best way for employers to commend and reinforce good practice. Though it is true that money is a big driving factor for a lot of people, it is not the be and end all – especially for SMEs which are unlikely to have the budget to facilitate regular bonuses and rises to pay.

Not only is it financially challenging for employers, but using money as a tool to motivate staff can also come with its downsides for employees too. Monetary benefits are short-lived. They are typically tagged onto the end of an individual’s regular pay cheque and can get lost in their salary, losing value as a result.

Instead of attempting to inject motivation into their workforce with cash, employers could be better off exploring non-monetary benefits that engage staff members, make them feel appreciated and ultimately inspire them to want to do well for the company.

A culture of recognition

If somebody is having a bad day and struggling to find the motivation to push on at work, sometimes all they need is a simple ‘well done’ or ‘good job’ to remind them that their contribution counts and their efforts are appreciated. Shining light on an achievement, however big or small, reassures staff that their work is not going unnoticed, validates their labour, and will make them feel they have a stake in their company. With this, it gives employees more purpose and more reason to go that extra mile.

There are various forms of recognition, and it can come from the top down or be actioned at a peer level. In fact, a Harvard Business School study found positive recognition from co-workers can increase an employee’s output by as much as 7%. It is often easier for co-workers to spot a colleague’s achievement too, since they work closely with each other and are more accustomed of their day to day activity.

Fostering a culture of peer-to-peer recognition would not cost an employer a penny, but it delivers results that money cannot buy. It builds comradery, improves productivity and motivates staff to be better and continue working to a high standard. Consider award trophies or other tangible tokens of appreciation as additional ways to celebrate achievements and reinforce a culture of recognition.

Personalised vouchers

As aforementioned, when an employee receives a bonus it is usually engulfed in their salary. What this means is the individual will more than likely put the money towards their mortgage or bills, or any other expenses that their salary typically pays off, and crucially, not on themselves.

Staff will be more motivated when they feel rewarded and have something to show for their efforts. By honouring good work with vouchers, for a meal or an experience, for example, it ensures employees receive the reward their contribution deserves. What’s more, vouchers have the capacity to be far more personable than money, and can be tailored specifically towards individuals. Not only does this make the reward more special and something the employee will have actually wanted, but it is also a sign of empathy and acknowledgment that the employer sees staff as human beings with interests and a life outside of the workplace. If an employee feels recognised in this way, they are more likely to want to work hard for their company.

Extra time off and flexibility

Offering employees some extra days off to focus on themselves and recharge their batteries is a great option for employers looking to reward good work and motivate staff. Whether it is acknowledging an employee’s individual achievement or granting a companywide ‘bank holiday’ for a joint team effort, additional paid leave is a good way of saying thank you and giving back to staff. As well as this, it also mitigates burnout and ensures people are well rested after a particularly busy work period.

Employers should also consider granting time off to celebrate employee work anniversaries and birthdays. Doing this, especially for birthdays, is not only a good way of showing appreciation but can also promote a healthy work-life balance.

Alternatively, employers can consider incentivising staff through more flexible hours. Rewarding employees with the choice of what hours are worked, or when hours are worked, can allow them to work in a way that suits them and adheres to their own personal circumstances. If a manager knows one of their team members has been coming into the office via a long commute to get a project over the line, they could be rewarded with a later start time the following week for some extra time at home and to avoid the morning rush.

With extra time off or offering more chances for flexibility, employers give their people more freedom, with a greater sense of control, and mutual respect from their employer. In fact, our research found three-quarters (76%) of UK staff say they are more likely to want to work for a company if it offers it.

For some members of staff, money will always be a source of motivation. However, for others, money lacks the personal factor which can make a reward more meaningful and influence their overall employee experience. Taking the time to create thoughtful rewards and incentives can make your staff feel that your recognition of their efforts is more authentic. This, in turn, creates greater motivation and happier teams.

Written by
Jamie Mackenzie
Director at Sodexo Engage
February 14, 2022
Written by
February 14, 2022