Don't Be a Lumbergh: How Managers Can Motivate Without Money

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We're not supposed to sweat the small stuff but sometimes it’s the small stuff that rankles the most. Just think of Peter Gibbons, the main character in the seminal movie Office Space. In a montage, we see Peter tackling all the small, but frustrating realities of his office environment—the static-inducing door handle, view-obstructing cubicle wall, the micromanagement chain of command. Yes, Peter is a movie character, but his frustrated annoyance at common office issues resonates in real life. So how can managers help motivate, incentive and support employees so that they don’t become the aggrieved Peters of the office?

A raise or bonus can be a great way to recognize employees, but that’s not always an option. In fact, it’s a mistake for managers to think that money is the only valuable asset to an employee. According to a 2015 survey done by Glassdoor, 79% of employees would prefer new or additional benefits to a pay increase, proving that for happy workplaces, quality matters over quantity. Here are some popular ideas:

Upgrade the workspace.

A wonky mouse. A desk chair that squeaks. The spinning wheel of death—again! Think of the adage: A carpenter is only as good as his tools. By providing employees with good tools and updated technology to makes their lives easier, less time is spent getting frustrated by old, outdated hardware.

While providing corner offices might not be possible, creating different work spaces for different kinds of work within the office helps foster creativity and productivity. Ideas like designated quiet areas, treadmill or standing desks, and group discussion rooms encourage a more welcoming and comfortable work environment, meaning more welcomed and comfortable workers.

To that end, a workplace should also foster community and friendliness. Ideas like hosting a catered breakfast or lunch, providing healthy snacks in the breakroom, and keeping communal spaces clean and nice go a long way to creating places employees want to be.

Invest in future success.  

A plant that stops growing wilts, as does a bored employee. The best way to avoid burn out is to nourish and feed your staff’s natural talents, ambitions and desire for challenges. If possible, subsidize appropriate professional development classes, purchase professional organization memberships, support attendance at professional network and industry conferences, etc. When a manager shows that they care about the individual person’s goals and career successes, the loyalty and respect reaped is priceless. In order to cultivate a culture of growth, a good manager must tend to the needs of his or her team members with consideration of long-term success.

A good starting point is the BizLibrary, a place for mastering professional skills with on-demand, on-the-go training. CompTIA AITP members can tap into BizLibrary’s exclusive collection of more than 6,000 business-related courses and personalized playlists covering a wide range of professional development topics. Learn more about BizLibrary.

Give the gift of time. 

Whether it is additional PTO, unlimited vacation or a flexible remote work schedule, having more control and say in how and when work gets done can be a valuable commodity to employees. Some companies, like Virgin Group and Github, have unlimited vacation, trusting employees to make themselves accountable to the work. Other companies, like Netflix, boast no official work hours, allowing employees to set their own schedules around their lives. While not every company is jumping on this trend, managers can embrace this idea with staggered work hours or flex time.

Provide autonomy and freedom. 

A job is a task; a career is a mosaic of years spent honing skills and talents against challenges to find success. By giving employees the freedom to develop their own projects, lead initiatives and solve problems in their own way not only promotes personal accountability for the employee, but also pride and dedication to the work as a whole.

Accessing new skills, rising to a new challenge and working with new people on different facets of the business can help create multi-disciplinary employees that care beyond their own silo of work can come with its drawbacks. Annie Beckler, a senior project manager, warns, “[A personal work project] does help gain visibility within the organization, but it is only a perk if the employee has the bandwidth to take on an additional project.”

Offering quality perks and incentives motivate, reward and foster a supportive work culture. So when bonuses or raises are not an option, managers should think creatively on ways that incentivize employees in meaningful and productive ways. Otherwise, your workplace might start to resemble Office Space—and no one wants that, except maybe Bill Lumbergh.