Creative ways to motivate employees and improve productivity

There’s no denying the power of a salary bump, bonus or increased 401(k) match to motivate employees. Money talks. And there is certainly value in showing employees, in transparent, financial terms, that you appreciate their efforts.


At the same time, there has been growing employer backlash against the belief that money is the best or only way to boost employee performance. Recent studies show that the sense of self-worth that people earn on the job is a far more significant driver of motivation than financial incentives from other sources. These findings — along with a new generation of employers — have prompted more companies to experiment with fun, creative ways to reward employees, aside from the “pat on the back” and “more flexible hours” that are often suggested. And many of the rewards don’t cost a thing.


How can you tap into your employees’ sense of self worth and productivity? Here are a four unique (and inexpensive) ideas to motivate your team.


Reward good ideas that fail

While not all ideas work, the fact that your employees are innovating is something to celebrate. Yet rarely do companies recognize people for the good idea that fails — unless you are lan Weiss, president of the Summit Consulting Group Inc. According to an article in HR World, when Weiss was CEO of Calgon, he created an annual award for “the best idea that didn’t work,” which was presented at the company’s annual awards dinner. “This stimulated innovation and positive behavior, not ‘winning,’” he said.

Try role reversal

Another way to incentivize new ideas is to empower them. Brian Halligan, CEO of the marketing software firm Hubspot, told that he sometimes rewards employees who bring him new business ideas by firing them from their day job and appointing them CEO of a new startup division of the company. “We want to empower the edges of the organization, and we want to let the people who really understand our customers to make decisions,” Halligan said.

Give people the good parking spot

Parking lot politics can work in your favor, according to Professor Linda M. Lopeke, principal of When an employee goes above and beyond, consider upgrading his or her parking spot. Giving model employees prime parking isn’t just cost effective, it shows people the value you place on their contribution to the company, Lopeke told HR World.

Encourage chill time.

Hard-working employees can burn out if they don’t occasionally take time to disconnect and recharge. So why not let them do it in the office? By converting quiet or open spaces in your office into areas for people to meditate, read a magazine or even take a nap, you can actually boost creativity and productivity. The CEO of Pontiflex, Zephrin Lasker, turned a room full of computer servers into a napping area for team members. “I’m a huge believer in napping,” Zephrin Lasker told