Five ways to motivate your employees on the cheap

Keeping your staff happy, engaged, and motivated to do their best work day in and day out should always be a top priority for your business- in good times and in bad. But that can be tough when your business doesn't have the cash to hand out big raises, even when they're deserved.

Luckily, motivating employees doesn't necessarily mean throwing wads of cash at them. With a little effort and creative thinking, you can build and nurture a team of efficient, loyal, and hardworking employees without spending money you don't have. Here are the top five ways:

Swap working hours for volunteering

Most likely, your employees hold a cause or two very close to their hearts- and you can play hero by supporting their charitable efforts with time off each year to give back. Australia currently has 6.3 million active volunteers, and according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, paid workers are more likely to participate in volunteer work than unemployed individuals.

To encourage full time staff to volunteer, companies should participate in workplace volunteering programs through GoVolunteer, or directly contact the local soup kitchens, RSPCA or Oxfam for volunteering opportunities.

Face time with the boss

Technology is great, but it can also make us lazy when it comes to interpersonal communication. Next time you think about sending instructions to an employee via email or instant message, deliver the information in person instead. A face to face encounter can convey much more emotion than a digital message, and can also show your employees that you care about their welfare and any projects they are working on.

Regular team meetings are a good idea, but team lunches can also help improve productivity and boost morale. Small businesses, in particular, will find this a lot easier than larger companies as there is a greater opportunity to create a tight-knit team.

Say please and thank you

Employees need to feel like you genuinely notice and appreciate their contributions. In addition to verbal thank-yous, consider a handwritten note that conveys sincere praise when a project is successful. Saying thank you on Twitter and Facebook is another option, and is much more effective than punishment for shaping behaviour. Plus, it's free!

Lunches with thought leaders

What better way to inspire your employees than by allowing them the opportunity to hear directly from industry heavyweights? Speakers can 'bring the dream alive' by talking of their career experiences and milestones, as well as provide guidance to staff. Having an experienced industry expert come into the office to speak doesn't have to cost a thing if you can use your connections and networks, such as your local small business association.

Encourage creative thinking

Sometimes, the best ideas come from unexpected sources. Try giving your employees 24 hours to develop creative solutions to any problems they have with the way business is done. This method can empower employees to think beyond their job descriptions, as well as help them feel that they can make a positive impact on the company's direction.

Charlotte Jensen of AllBusiness.com

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