Motivate Your Workers -- Without Giving Them More Money

Aug. 11, 2011
To be happy and productive, your team members need recognition, respect, and even a little love.

Show me the money!

Fictional NFL wide receiver Rod Tidwell, played by Cuba Gooding Jr., embedded that phrase into the American vernacular when he tried to negotiate for a bigger contract in the 1996 film "Jerry Maguire."

In these tight economic times, however, it's not that easy to show the money to hard-working employees who make the same demand.

No matter how much managers and executives want to reward their employees, many leaders just don't have the financial resources to give out much-deserved raises and bonuses.

The good news, according to Todd Patkin, is manufacturing managers don't need to spend a cent to show workers that their efforts are truly appreciated.

Todd Patkin

"People will never admit it, but money is not the thing they desire most from their work," says Patkin, author of "Finding Happiness: One Man's Quest to Beat Depression and Anxiety and -- Finally -- Let the Sunshine In."

The three keys to rewarding -- and motivating -- workers, Patkin adds, are showing them appreciation, respect and, yes, even a little love.

"And happy, engaged employees are the single best way to impact your company's bottom line," Patkin says.

Five Strategies for Showing the Love

For nearly two decades, the Needham, Mass., native helped lead his family's auto-parts business, Autopart International, to new heights until Advance Auto Parts bought the company in 2006.

During that time, Patkin says he made it his No. 1 priority to put his people and their happiness first.

Based on his experience, Patkin offers these five strategies for making employees feel appreciated and loved.

Send "Love" Notes.

Writing and sending a thank-you note is standard practice when you receive a gift. Because your team members' hard work is a gift to you, Patkin believes you should highlight an employee's outstanding individual performance with a handwritten -- not typed -- note conveying your sincere appreciation.

While it might seem difficult to carve five minutes out of a hectic day to write a thank-you note, Patkin believes the return on investment is huge.

"Remember that positive reinforcement and sincere gratitude will increase the respect your team has for you and will improve their opinion of your entire organization," Patkin says.

"Also, it will encourage them to likewise say 'thank you' more often to their own subordinates within your company."

Distribute Inspiration.

Many in our society tend to think of work as a place of drudgery and boredom, as exemplified in the movie "Office Space."

That"s why boosting your team's spirits should be one of your daily goals.

If you help workers see the world as a happier place, their professional and personal productivity will increase too, Patkin asserts.

"If you run across a quotation or story that inspires you, don't keep it to yourself -- pass it along to an employee, and perhaps, if appropriate, also mention that the quote or anecdote reminded you of him and his great attitude," Patkin explains.

A twist on the idea: Send out a quote or lesson of the day.

Tell Success Stories.

Your workers might outwardly downplay their achievements when they receive praise, but Patkin believes everyone loves a pat on the back for their efforts.

On top of that, many workers "rightly or wrongly" believe that their managers take them for granted and only point out their mistakes.

So when a team member does something great, tell him or her that you noticed -- and tell the rest of the team. Gather the group for a few minutes to point out his or her accomplishments, or send out an e-mail to the entire team.

Patkin has found that this best practice encourages other team members to work harder, knowing that they'll likely be recognized for their efforts.

A simple rule for providing feedback: Offer praise in public as loudly as possible, and criticize in private.

Identify Stars.

When a team member's achievements seem to warrant more than just a success story, Patkin suggests celebrating them as a star.

Although some team members will roll their eyes at employee-of-the-month programs, Patkin admits, none of them will turn down the honor if they receive it.

You might even consider recognizing several employees each month, Patkin adds.

"For example, I always wrote about several store managers in our 'Managers of the Month' newsletter. Later, I included assistant managers, store supervisors, store salespeople and our drivers in this letter of champions as well."

Patkin wrote one-page profiles of his stars, lauding both their professional achievements and personal qualities. The personalized recognitions motivated the employees "to work even harder to earn a spot on the pages themselves."

Make It a Family Affair.

Whenever possible, engage your employees' families when praising them.

Why? Because involving their family members validates all the hours your team members spend at work. And your workers" performance will be buoyed by the support they receive from the people they love most.

Patkin says he typically would do this by leaving a phone message with a team member's family, along these lines:

"'I just want to tell you that your husband and dad is the most incredible, wonderful, amazing person in the whole world,'" Patkin recalls. "'He just broke our Nashua, New Hampshire, store's all-time sales record. Guys, that is incredible! So, please, kids, do me a favor. When your dad comes home tonight, everyone run up and give him a huge hug and tell him how proud you are of him and how great he is.'"

He then would urge the worker's spouse to "'give him a big hug and a wonderful kiss to make sure he knows how much you love him and how much he is appreciated for all he's doing for our company.'"

Years later, Patkin recalls, employees whose families received these phone calls told him they didn't remember how much their bonus checks were for that year, but "that extra-special homecoming was still clearly etched in their memories."

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