The Importance of Non-Financial Incentives
The Importance of Non-Financial Incentives

The Importance of Non-Financial Incentives

Employees are motivated by more than money.

Finding, recruiting and hiring talented people is just the beginning. Keeping them motivated throughout their careers is another challenge entirely. Ideally, talented people will have such a great work ethic that they’ll stay engaged no matter how they feel. But let’s face it, how we feel influences how we approach our work.

Great managers need to become experts at keeping employees engaged—companies with highly engaged employees are more productive, have 21% higher productivity, and staff are more likely to stick around (Gallup). The problem is, though employee engagement is on the rise, it’s still only a minority of the US workforce who are engaged at work. Employee engagement is way more complex than just motivation—but, without motivation, employees aren’t going to be engaged.

So, what’s the best way to motivate employees? There’s an obvious answer… money. But non-financial incentives are worth considering in addition to compensation because in some cases they can be more effective. To some people, recognition, appreciation or increased flexibility can be more valuable than cash.

Non-Financial Incentives

What are non-financial incentives? Recognition for a job well done is the obvious answer, but that’s just good management. The idea behind non-financial incentives is that they are incentives, meaning they are known about in advance and so give employees a little something extra to work for. Here are some examples that might work for your organization.


Non-Financial Incentive  Value to Employee 
Lunch with CEO  The chance to sit down with the CEO or a company leader, especially in a less formal context, can be a great motivator for valued employees who want to better understand the vision, mission and purpose of the organization. 
Opportunity to work on a special project  This is really a win/win for both parties: your most engaged employees get to work on a special assignment of high value to the company; the employee feels that rush of excitement and energy that comes from working on something big and the entire organization benefits from having your best people working on an important initiative. 
More unstructured time to explore/innovate  Google is famous for encouraging their employees to devote 20% of their working hours to pursue independent side projects. Every business is different and you may not be able to afford to give your employees that much “unstructured” time, but you can replicate Google’s approach by sponsoring hackathons, business case study competitions or simply by building in time for your most engaged employees to pursue a passion related to the business. 
Special recognition (“employee of the month”)  In a fast-paced economy, there’s always the risk of moving so fast that we forget to slow down long enough to celebrate the wins. Consider public recognition for a job well done as a simple and effective form of non-financial motivation.  
More flexibility  Don’t underestimate the value of offering more flexible work arrangements to talented people who may appreciate and be motivated by the chance to work from home or work from a coffee shop. 
Increased learning opportunities  Learning, training and development is another win/win for employer and employee. While quality learning opportunities are not free, the non-financial aspect of this reward is time. Give your most engaged, talented performers more time in their day to pursue learning new skills. 
Team celebration  And finally, don’t forget the traditional team celebration. Whether it’s a pizza lunch, a night on the town or an afternoon trip to the local art museum, team building is always an excellent and motivating reward.  


One final thought: remember, different people are motivated by different things.

For advice on tailoring your incentive and rewards policy to different employee types, read more here.


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