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Incentives that work

/ 8 April 2012

Many businesses have had to cut back in economic hard times and that often means employees feel the financial pinch too. The thing is, what keeps your workers with you during the hard times isn’t the money after all.

That’s why offering non-financial incentives can increase employee commitment and motivation. Numerous studies have found that employee motivation isn’t about money if workers feel that they are at least fairly compensated. An Employee Hold’em Study found that 92 per cent of employees said that they would stay at a job for less money if they could attain better work-life balance and recognition for their efforts. The McKinsey Institute has found that praise from managers, personal attention from leaders and the opportunity to lead projects are just as motivating — and in some cases, more so — than cash bonuses, pay increases or stock options.

The 2009 Employee Motivation study conducted by Bayt.com and YouGov found that 73 per cent of employees consider work-life balance one of the most important motivating factors in the workplace. Opportunities for career growth is the number one motivator for workers in the Middle East but 45 per cent of employees are dissatisfied with their personal development options. A company’s reputation is important for 33 per cent of workers while only five percent are motivated solely by pay. Almost half of the UAE employees aren’t satisfied with the amount of recognition they get at work and in terms of communication — which contributes to a feeling of belonging — only 20 per cent of the UAE employees believe what is formally communicated to them.

Financial incentives and rewards only create motivation in the short-term and can actually tend to de-motivate workers over the long haul. Non-financial incentives are so worthy of a company’s efforts because they make employees feel valued and cared for. These kinds of incentives create commitment because they fulfil people’s basic human needs like self-worth, mastery and growth. Money can only speak to extrinsic needs, those we learn to value because they are considered valuable by others.

Another McKinsey study has found that employee morale and motivation has fallen at almost half the companies in various industries around the world. The Employee Motivation Study discovered that 70 per cent of employees in the Gulf are looking for a new job or are willing to leave their present positions.

While creating an employee-centered culture takes changes in thinking and often outside help, offering non-financial incentives is a great start. Multinational companies have begun surveying their employees to determine what is really important to them. One found that social responsibility was an important factor for its workers; another that recognition meant more than reward.

You need to tailor non-financial incentives to your employees. What works for one company — or even one type of employee—won’t necessarily work for another. Find out what your workers value; show them that you value them; and they’ll pay you back for years to come.

The author is an executive coach and HR training and  development expert. She can be reached at oksana@academia ofhumanpotential.com or www.academiaofhumanpotential.com

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