When Pay Does Not Motivate -- How to Groom Great Employees

If you have been looking for a fresh take on how to motivate your employees go pick up a copy of Daniel Pink's book, Drive -- The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us. You will want to keep this book in your desk drawer as a reference when trying to motivate your employees toward achieving company goals. Pink makes a convincing argument that money does not motivate the people that work for us. Yes, our employees expect to be paid fairly, so as not to create unneeded contention that they are underpaid, but over-paying employees does little to motivate them to work harder toward achieving company goals. Moving into 2013, here are four ways to motivate employees without increasing salaries:

1. Verbal Appreciation. There is no better motivator than appreciation. Often, by simply showing your appreciation for someone's hard work, drive, enthusiasm or work ethic, your acknowledgment encourages more of the positive behavior you are seeking. In today's over-worked world of business, it is not that managers and business owners don't appreciate the hard work their employees put in, it's that we forget to express that appreciation. Simply saying, "Thank you for your hard work," can go a long way.

2. Meaningful Reward. Recently I did a favor for a colleague when I wrote a heartfelt testimonial for an upcoming class she was offering. I did it as a favor and expected nothing in return. You can imagine my surprise when a few days later waiting on the front steps of my home was a silver Nordstrom box with a new pair of patent leather shoes as a thank you for the favor I had performed. To really appreciate the magnitude of this gift, it's important to note my infatuation with fine shoes. I was totally caught off guard by this generous thank you. It was not just that I loved these beautiful shoes, it was more that my colleague really knew me and she took the time and effort to extend a thank you that would be deeply personal to me. Imagine thanking your employees like that! Of course, this takes extra effort because you need to know the people that work for you. To offer meaningful rewards you need to know their favorite restaurants, hobbies, artists and other fine details about their lives. Then, when they least expect it, reward your employee for work well done with a gift that is deeply personal and meaningful to them. It goes a lot further than a $1 raise.

3. Let Go. As Daniel Pink shares in his book, generally people are more motivated to work harder when they have the ability to work on their own terms. Share your goals with your employees, then lend them some, if not all, of the authority to decide how the goal will be accomplished. Managers and business owners who are controlling tend to groom employees who are less productive as they are afraid to move forward without constant approval.

4. Listen. When was the last time you really listened to your employees? Is it possible that they have a perfect solution to some big company challenge you are facing? Not just in business, but in life too, there's no greater compliment than lending your ear to the people around you. Listen to the ideas of your people, implement when possible, and you will create an army of employees who feel empowered to move the company toward those big, audacious company goals, which you always thought were solely yours to focus on.

Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us by Daniel Pink will change the way you think about paying and motivating employees. As the saying goes, you get what you pay for, but in business you must make sure you are using the proper currency.