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5 Ways to Reward Great Employees Besides Money

Great employees need motivation but money isn't always the answer. Here are five non-monetary ways to get your team moving.
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When your company is underperforming, many employers assume that cash incentives will turn up the volume. All employees are delighted by a raise or a bonus, right? Sure, for about five minutes. It turns out money isn't actually everything when getting a high-powered team to meet goals and objectives.

If it were that simple then every company with deep pockets would be successful and all commission-based sales people would perform the same. Current research actually shows that money alone is not enough make team members bring their A game.

Below are five critical motivators that are key to getting your best employees working happily and consistently. Master them and watch your team soar to new heights.

1. Help them learn. Smart, ambitious people need mental stimulation. If they feel stagnant they will get distracted and perhaps search for another company that is mentally stimulating. They want to be challenged, and exposed to new ideas. Give your best people the first opportunity to access training materials, try their hand at new techniques, and practice advanced skills. Give them access to your most experienced leaders and mentors. And because teaching can help solidify the teacher's own expertise, give them a chance to bring newer people up to speed.

2. Say thank you. Achievers thrive not only on their accomplishments, but also want to feel appreciated for what they contribute. Anyone who shows improvement, solves a problem, or exceeds a target is justifiably proud of what they have accomplished.

They want to know that you are proud, too, and that you appreciate their effort. Public recognition through awards and acknowledgement helps them understand they are valued on the team.  It is easy to send a brief thank you email or make mention at a weekly meeting with a personal comment on their accomplishment and why it matters. A public awards wall with noticeable achievements rewards those who excel and motivates those who are looking to be recognized.

3.  Empower them. Achievers want responsibility. But it can be really hard for a leader to step back and let their people fly solo. It is especially tempting to rush in when they start to stumble or stray off the path.

But most people learn more from their failures then they do successes. Empower your best employees so they can act on their own. If you construct your processes to allow for limited failure, smart employees will step up with creative solutions and learn along the way. Create ways for your people to test their skills safely, without threatening the team or company's prospects. This will relieve you of the pressure to come to the rescue and short circuit the process.

4. Help them enjoy themselves. People want to have fun. Nothing is less motivating than the prospect of 8 hours of drudgery--that's a recipe for a staff that drags in at 8:30 and bolts for the door at 5 on the dot. If you want your staff to bound in early and stay long past dinner time, make work a place they love to be.

Find fun and entertaining ways to accomplish work and celebrate success. Encourage them to enjoy each other's company while working on engaging tasks together. The more an emotional connection exists among the team the more likely they will help each other so they share in the rewards of accomplishment.

5. Help them grow. Some people are perfectly willing to stay in the same position doing the same work for 20 years--their bliss is not in the office. But if your people are showing signs of boredom, fatigue and dissatisfaction, they are definitely in need of stimulation.

They want the opportunity to push themselves, test their own limits, and see what they can accomplish. Give them ways to grow personally and professionally at work. Personal and professional training programs are consistently rated as the most valuable reward high achievers value from their employers. Taking an active interest in someone's personal growth is a thoughtful way. Budget time and resources to make sure each employee grows to their full potential so everyone will see beneficial results.

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Last updated: Apr 28, 2014

KEVIN DAUM | Columnist

An Inc. 500 entrepreneur with a more than $1 billion sales and marketing track record, Kevin Daum is the best-selling author of Video Marketing for Dummies and the executive producer of Amilya! on 77WABC New York. Sign up here and never miss out on Kevin's thoughts and humor.

The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.



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