How to Motivate Employees Without Using Money

Uncategorized Apr 04, 2019

Who are they: There are many businesses that require you to learn how to motivate employees without using money. It’s fair to say that there are a great many businesses in the UK that rely on lower-paid workers to keep them ticking over. Retail accounts for about two-fifths of all low-paid work in the UK, while the hospitality industry represents another fifth. Jobs in social care, hairdressing and cleaning tend to make up the rest.

These workers may earn just above the £5.93 minimum wage for over 21s or £4.92 for those aged 18-20; the latter is likely if you rely on college students to make up your numbers. Or maybe they take home just over the £3.64 minimum wage rate if they’ve left school but haven’t turned 18 yet.

The fact that these employees are poorly paid isn’t necessarily driven by greed but by economic realities. Your business may be the same. There just isn’t a whole lot of money in the kitty to throw around, particularly in today’s economy. With that in mind, how do you motivate poorly paid workers?

What to do: Just in case you skipped it, re-read the motivation section in this book. That has a lot to tell us about the difference between intrinsic and extrinsic motivation; simply put, while money is most certainly important, it doesn’t have to be the be all and end all for your staff. It’s fair to say, however, that a poor working environment, stress or poor management behaviour combined with a low wage may just be a step too far.

Everyone deserves to be happy and gain self-respect from the work they do; when you can’t take pride from the amount of money you make or the job title you have, you need to find that self-esteem elsewhere. This is where you, as the manager of lower-paid workers, can really come into your own.

Don’t think that you can ignore demotivation; true, there may always be a steady stream of people in need of work, but for each person that leaves, you have to spend time, money and energy training someone else up. Other things invariably suffer in the meantime. The fact is that it doesn’t tend to be the CEO of a company that makes or breaks a company or drives customers away, it’s the employees.

When employees dislike or are indifferent about their jobs, poor customer service, a high staff turnover, low productivity and even theft can be the result.  

Simple steps to help motivation can be the answer. As well as the ideas in our motivation chapter, you could try the following:

  • A little respect goes a long way. A common complaint from low-paid workers is that managers don’t call them by name or talk to them in any way. Your low-paid employees may only be temporary, part-time or shift workers, but that’s no excuse to forget your basic pleasantries. “Good morning,” “Hello” and “How are you?” all go a long way to showing you have respect for everyone who works for you, as does making an effort to know all of their names.


  • Often the most stressful part of a job for a new employee is the start, where you are trying to learn the ropes. Consider evaluating any new staff after 30 days and not a quarter, as is most common. This allows you to feed back in increments, steer the employee and help them when needed. While you don’t want to set a precedence of giving employees bonuses for just doing their job – bonuses should always be for extra special activity or targets – you may want to consider offering the employee the chance to earn a little more money at the review stage.


  • Low-paid workers tend to thrive on respect and recognition; if they are at the lower end of the hierarchy in the team, for instance, their self-esteem may need a little gentle hand holding. The pat on the back and the verbal ‘thank you’ or ‘that’s a good job’ will do wonders for their confidence. There may well be restrictions on what you can pay the employee, but there don’t have to be any restrictions on the praise and recognition that you can give for a job well done.


Making an effort to get to know what makes your low-paid workers tick and recognising that they can still take pride in their work despite their lack of financial remuneration or position in the hierarchy can make the difference between high staff turnover and employees who are happy to stay with you for the duration.


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