Show Your Employees You Care — Without Having to Spend a Cent

When I found my businesses expanding beyond my husband and me, I began to feel a tremendous amount of pressure to make my employees happy. I wanted to make sure I was doing everything in my power to make them feel appreciated and motivated. But how?

employee gifts
Getty Images/iStockphoto

I’ve heard that money talks, but apparently it doesn’t speak to everyone. According to a Harvard Business School analysis of research on the workplace, the connection between salary and job satisfaction is “very weak.” In fact, workers who value intrinsic rewards, like general enjoyment and fulfillment, over extrinsic rewards, like money, are significantly more engaged and motivated.

As a boss, it’s in your best interest to foster those intrinsic rewards — many of which don’t come with a price tag. (Win-win.) This is especially good news for those of us just starting out with businesses on limited budgets.

With this intention in mind, I experimented with a few techniques at my company. Here’s what worked for me.

1. Find and Nurture Their ‘Why’
When we understand why our employees want to work for our company, we can give them more experiences to foster their passion. For example, my creative director loves to work for my brand because she believes in the message behind what we do. She feels it’s important. Knowing that, I’ve invited her to go beyond creative direction and take some ownership in the messaging and how we serve our customers.

To find these “whys,” consider asking questions that address a broader motivation during the employee's quarterly review or in an office survey. If you spend regular one-on-one time with your employees, you can probably figure out what makes them spark just by watching their reactions. If you see extra excitement around an assignment, ask them why, for example.

In addition to handing off special projects that speak to your employees’ individual motivations, you can encourage those employees who are passionate about your industry by inviting them networking events or letting them sit in on meetings where they can learn.

2. Offer Flexibility and Compassion
Acknowledge that your employees have a life outside of work by offering flexible hours, work-from-home days, or an even just an understanding nod when someone’s child unexpectedly needs to be picked up from school.

If you’re worried about flextime getting out of hand, give your employees a specific number of days when they can work from home or have flexible hours, and set up a simple system for tracking, like a Google calendar.

You can also try focusing solely on the results: At my husband’s business, they have shared to-do lists for their employees. As long as those tasks are getting knocked out, he doesn’t care whether they’re in the office or in Paris. This way, employees manage their own schedules and can meet deadlines in whatever ways work best for them.

1 2