Can you motivate staff on a budget? (It’s definitely possible!)

Can you motivate staff on a budget? (It’s definitely possible!)

As former CEO of Campbell’s Soup, Doug Conant said, “To win in the marketplace you must first win in the workplace.”

To win in the workplace, you need to win your employees. And it is well known that performance is intrinsically linked with motivation.

The importance of engaging and motivating employees cannot be underestimated by any business – large or small.

In fact, it is essential.

Because unmotivated, disengaged and unappreciated employees cannot deliver within a competitive market.

So the question is – can an SME operating on a shoestring budget motivate employees as successfully as the big boys?

The good news is motivation goes beyond money.

The complexity of human nature indicates salary alone is inadequate as a sole incentive for employees. So while a salary increase is always welcome (although not always possible) it is essentially not an overall fix.

Here are some complementary strategies guaranteed to motivate your employees without stretching the budget:

Take an interest in your employees.

By simply taking an interest in your employees’ personal and workplace development, it not only shows appreciation, but encourages engagement across the board.

You can:

  • Ask staff – not via email or phone but in person – if there are any positions, opportunities or higher tasks they aspire to that will assist them in their own career pathway. Help develop a plan that will get them there. This tactic can be a real win-win scenario for everyone!
  • Mentor staff or alternatively set up a mentor program between senior and junior staff. Not only is this working on individual development but team development as it opens up communication channels and increases the opportunities of sharing valuable knowledge.
  • Offer staff training opportunities. Allow staff to select from the 1000s of online courses available from Learning At Work’s training library (you don’t pay until someone actually does the training!). After all, an investment in your staff is an investment in your business.

Be flexible with a little give and take.

While different industries and operations require staff in different ways, the ability for a workplace to think outside the traditional ‘work shift” goes a long way in acknowledging staff members individual needs.

How about:

  • Letting staff choose their own hours. I am not talking shorter hours but perhaps allowing staff to select start and finish times that aren’t the traditional 9 to 5.
  • Allowing staff to work from home. With today’s technology, workers at all levels have the opportunity to do tasks (such as online training) from home. It shows trust in your employees.
  • Give staff a paid “volunteer” day off once a year to give back to the community (also great for your company brand too!).

Recognise your employees (and I don’t mean in the hallway or down at the shops!).

The use of social motivation tactics such as perks, goals, recognition and rewards has been long regarded as tools to empower and engage.

Think about the points program associated with using a credit card to the loyalty cards at your local café where you purchase your morning coffee.

Reward and recognition can work equally well in the workplace.

Why don’t you:

  • Set individual and team goals with a designated reward for success. Rewards don’t have to be lavish to be meaningful – be creative.   Even offering the winner the best car spot in the carpark can be a badge of honour in itself.
  • Acknowledge the success of an employee across an internal workplace platform such as Learning At Work. As each staff member turn on their computer they can be greeted with onscreen messages such as:

“Congratulations to John Snow for exceeding his sales goals” or

“Well done to the Finance team who successfully completed a two week training course”

Social recognition for a job well done – is simple, free and very, very effective.

  • Pizza days! Easy and oh so yummy.

Oh and let’s not forget the simplest and cheapest tactic of all:


It’s priceless.

So back to the question – can an SME operating on a shoestring budget motivate employees as successfully as the big boys?


With just a tad more effort and little financial obligation, an SME has the capacity to motivate their employees so that their business can win in the marketplace.

It truly is simple and achievable.

For more information on the Learning at Work platform contact us.