5 Ways to Reward Employees Without Digging Into Your Pocket

employee1We all work and apply for jobs because it provides for our needs. Money has always been and will always be one of the top primary purposes most people hang on to their jobs. While money serves as the purpose for people to do their jobs it isn’t the primary motivator for them, however.

Motivation delves into the inner psyche of your employees. Different people have varying interests and have changing situations. Finding the very core essence of what motivates your employees is a process that requires a lot of relationship building. You cannot send out a form and ask employees what motivates them and expect the true and honest answers that matter. In the same manner, going into a meeting with them to ask them their motivations outright will only garner canned responses. An employee’s motivation stems from something deeply personal, it could be their families, their hobbies, a startup they are working on or a vast swath of many things. Unlocking these deeply rooted motivations and knowing them will require gaining your employees’ trust.

This is the very essence of creating non-monetary rewards for your employees. The reward itself is a short-term motivational tool that boosts the employee’s happiness at that moment. The more long-term aspect of the non-monetary reward is carried by the message that imparting it was delivered to your employee. That my employer is great because they know what I want and what matters to me, and the focus goes from the actual reward into their importance to the company. I personally call this factor the motivational quotient.

Given this mindset as far as employee reward programs are concerned, here are a few examples of non-monetary rewards and the motivational quotient they address.

work form homeWork from Home for a Week / Flexible Time Off / Boss Will Do Your Work Day

This kind of reward appeals to the employee who has a lot on his or her plate and yearns for the one thing that money couldn’t directly buy – time. If your employee has a growing family with a lot of kids they would really love to gain this reward so it buys them extra time with their families without needing to worry about work. From a business perspective, you don’t need to lose one day of productivity. Pitch in and work on that employee’s tasks, sometimes it’s good to get in the weeds as a leader. Ask coworkers to pitch in and reinforce that this reward is available also for others who perform well. This will make it something others who are pressed for time will also want.

Preferred Parking Spot / Get to Use the Office with a Window / Get to Use the Comfy Chair

This kind of non-monetary reward focuses on giving public praise and importance to the employee. These are especially geared towards go-getters or achievers who love to win competitions. While the actual convenience of having the parking spot right by the entrance or getting to use the La-Z-Boy while working is nice, the actual exclusivity of having this perk is really the reward that is being focused on. On the opposite end of the spectrum, if you have employees who aren’t comfortable basking in the limelight or have inhibitions about given privilege over their peers you may want to use another non-monetary tool.

handshake2Paid Volunteer Work

This reward is similar to the first example, however, it focuses more on employees who feel strongly about a cause or advocacy. This particular reward can be geared towards some of your employees who would prefer not to bask in the glory of the second example and prefer to maintain a low profile. In this reward, you could consider an important event for that employee’s cause and let him attend that while still getting paid for the day. For example, if that staff member loves rescued animals, you can consider giving him or her a day off to be at the local animal shelter while applying the same principle in the first example of pitching in for his or her work. The fact that you know what the employee cares about and by supporting it, you have gained that employee’s happiness and loyalty.

Recognition as a Culture

This reward doesn’t specifically target a certain group, but should be treated as a best practice that fosters into the company’s culture. It’s important to gather employees in town halls and recognize the top performers and what they accomplished to gain such accolade. If the nature of work can’t get everyone off their desks at once, like in a call center, you could do this activity out on the operations floor with the entire management team going to the person’s desk to reward them.

employees1Targeted Rewards System

This reward system can’t take on a blanket approach and will need the discretion of you as a manager. If the employee has a hobby that he or she is passionate about you can focus your reward on that. So if for example, the employee competes in snowboarding or some extreme sport, your reward can be geared towards equipment or getting the company over to support him or her in the next competition.


Whatever the reward you have in store for your employees, you always have to keep in mind that the process on how these rewards are determined needs to follow a strict level of transparency. There is a thin line between a perception of favoritism over that of rewarding a performer. Make sure the rules are fair, the competition is open to everyone and that promises of rewards are kept. This kind of culture will pay for itself with the happiness of your employees resulting in increased productivity. In addition to that, in this day and age where information is freely distributed, your reputation as a business will attract better talent who will want to join your company for the culture you extol.

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