How to boost employee motivation without salary increases

A highly motivated workforce has benefits across the board, from greater productivity to improved staff retention. It's no wonder it's a huge area of focus for leaders.
Boosting employee motivation

A team of motivated employees can help a business advance in leaps and bounds. They're hard working, creative and more likely to go the extra mile for customers. Lose that motivation and things can go downhill fast.

When motivation starts to dwindle, many businesses assume that monetary incentives like salary raises are the fix. But while money is an important element in attracting and retaining staff, it's not always the solution to motivation problems.

The reason? Raising salaries doesn't solve the real issues that are at the root of staff disengagement. Left unresolved, those issues will continue to affect motivation long after the buzz of a raise has worn off.

At the end of this article we've also curated a list of other pieces of content you might find interesting and useful.

Recognise factors that affect motivation

It’s common for employees to lack motivation now and then. However, ignore a slump in productivity for too long and it can easily become a bigger problem.

A demotivated staff member is likely to become distant, quiet or be reluctant to get involved in new projects or team activities. They can become easily sidetracked and distract those around them, which ultimately reduces the productivity of the entire team.

Here are some of the factors that can lead to staff becoming less enthusiastic about their work:

  • Boredom
  • Lack of career progression
  • Lack of recognition or appreciation
  • Micromanagement
  • Too much or too little work
  • Lack of faith in management

As a manager, what employee motivation techniques can you use to overcome these problems? Many of these issues can be resolved by simply improving your communication.

Have regular one-to-ones

Schedule one-to-one meetings in your diary every fortnight or month. If you hold meetings ad-hoc, you fall into the habit of talking to your employee on a basis that suits you, not them.

It’s important to prioritise your one-to-ones and avoid postponing them because you have a deadline or another meeting you could go to. Cancelling your meeting risks exacerbating feelings of worthlessness or underappreciation.

If you do need to postpone a meeting, make sure you explain your reason to your employee and reschedule a new meeting as soon as possible.

Alan Furley, director of ISL Recruitment
Case Study.

Thinking creatively, businesses from all corners of Britain have introduced work incentives big and small to keep staff motivation high

Show staff you care about their wellbeing

If you avoid talking about difficult issues, your employees won’t feel comfortable being honest about what’s bothering them.

Show your employees that you’re genuinely interested in their wellbeing and progress at the business. In addition to discussing their work commitments, talk about how they’re feeling about the role and their position at the company. Is there anything you could do to make their work easier or more enjoyable?

Be clear about goals and company objectives

If your employees have a clear goal to work towards, it’s easier for them to see the value in their contribution. A lack of transparency or confusion about the company’s direction can demotivate staff and lead to a lack of faith in the leadership.

Share company objectives with staff and explain why those objectives matter. Demonstrate how each role feeds into those objectives and why they are essential to the company’s success.

If an employee has a clear goal to strive towards, they’re more likely to feel motivated to work more productively. They will also have a greater sense of achievement if they accomplish the goal ahead of time or exceed expectations.

Use perks and incentives to motivate staff

It’s common for businesses to offer perks, rewards and incentives to motivate employees. These can range from company-wide schemes to performance-related incentives.

Popular examples include:

  • Flexible hours
  • Remote working
  • Paid birthday off work
  • Employee discounts at the local cafe or gym
  • Event tickets or gift cards for exceptional work
  • Free food, like catered lunch once a week or high-quality coffee

Workplace perks are an effective way to boost motivation and productivity, since there’s a tangible reward. But not all schemes you come up with will motivate staff. Even with the best intentions, the perks and incentives can have the opposite effect.

The experiences of London-based Dynamo PR are a great example. The company has tried out a number of different incentive schemes to motivate staff, with varying levels of success.

An internal awards scheme

The first scheme set up by Dynamo PR aimed to motivate staff to produce high-quality content. The best content would be submitted to external awards and the writer would win a trophy internally for their hard work.

However, the company failed to account for the extra pressure this scheme put on staff members. It was launched during a busy period and staff found the process arduous.

“The feedback we received was that employees thought it was a good idea, but they didn’t feel encouraged to apply. It was too much effort for too little gain. It didn’t work to motivate employees, so we haven’t repeated it since,” Paul Cockerton, co-CEO of Dynamo PR, said.

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Offering unlimited holiday

Another scheme offered unlimited holiday to staff. It was inspired by Paul’s frustration with trying to organise holidays during busy times. So, he put the task back in the hands of employees.

“We looked at the impact of unlimited holidays in great detail and organised the programme very carefully. We delegated responsibility to individuals to take holiday when they felt it best suited them, the business and their colleagues. We talked everyone through the change and it has worked very well.”

Surprise staff with regular treats

One of Dynamo’s most successful motivation techniques has been their “Don Draper Clause” that is added into each employee’s contract. It means that on a regular basis, an employee will receive a strange, funny or creative gift paid for by “Don” – often chocolate or spa breaks.

Paul believes it’s helped to make staff happier and more productive, and that the perks have also boosted retention figures.

Paul Cockerton (right) tried out several incentive schemes at Dynamo PR before finding what worked

“We looked at the impact of unlimited holidays in great detail and organised the programme very carefully. We delegated responsibility to individuals to take holiday when they felt it best suited them, the business and their colleagues. We talked everyone through the change and it has worked very well.”

Paul Cockerton, co-CEO of Dynamo PR

How to develop an incentive scheme

If you’re thinking about introducing workplace perks as a way to motivate your employees, consider the key dos and don’ts before you try anything new.


  • Factor in staff workloads. If your scheme involves too much work – even if it’s something as simple as filling out a form – it might be hard work to get staff on board.
  • Involve your staff in the process. Setting up an internal workshop is a great way to find out what will motivate your employees. Encourage staff to think about how the perks will be applied, how they fit with the company values and how their success will be measured.
  • Make your perks accessible. There’s no point in having a reward every quarter if the same handful of people win every time.


  • Introduce too many perks at once. It’ll be hard to tell what’s motivating staff and what isn’t.
  • Use incentive schemes as a solution for real motivation problems. As mentioned earlier, if your staff aren’t invested in their roles or the success of the company, perks or rewards will only provide a short-term solution.

Create a positive work environment

No workplace is ever perfect. Whether you’re competing in a tough market or going through a difficult transition period, there will inevitably be bumps in the road that can leave employees feeling deflated and unmotivated.

Don’t fall into the trap of thinking that a salary raise is the only way to motivate staff. As a manager, you can create a positive environment for your employees to thrive in.

Have regular meetings, be open with staff and encourage their development and career progression. And if you organise an occasional chocolate delivery – who will say no to that?

What to do next?

We have a wide range of content dedicated to helping you solve crucial business challenges, but here are some suggestions:

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