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How to Inspire Employees (Without Using Money)


Pop quiz time. Without doing any research, how would you respond to the following sentence?

When a company really wants to motivate employees, the most effective strategy will rely primarily on:

a) Compensation-based incentives
b) Employee perks
c) A combination of A and B
d) None of the above

If you answered anything other than “d,” be sure to read this post all the way to the end. You may be in for a surprise.

You see, for decades employers have traditionally relied on pay and perks as how to motivate employees. The underlying theory is that giving people tangible rewards will make them feel more appreciated, which in turn will make them more satisfied with their jobs.

Unfortunately, job satisfaction is not always an indicator of true engagement. In fact, a growing body of research suggests that it’s the engaged employees who are outperforming everyone else at the office. And to be engaged, employees must be inspired enough by the mission of the company to do their job to the best of their abilities.

Why Inspired Employees Outperform Satisfied Employees
The next time you’re considering another round of bonuses and benefits, consider this study from Bain & Company, published in Harvard Business Review:

The study asked 300 senior executives to assess the productivity of employees in four categories: dissatisfied, satisfied, engaged, and inspired. Not unexpectedly, the satisfied employees were 29% more productive than their disengaged counterparts and engaged employees were 44% more productive those who were merely satisfied. Here’s the surprise: Inspired employees were 225% more productive than satisfied employees.

Source: Bain & Company via HBR

Source: Bain & Company via HBR


“From a purely quantitative perspective,” said the study’s authors, “it would take two and a quarter satisfied employees to generate the same output as one inspired employee.”

While the hierarchy of employee needs includes both satisfaction and engagement, it’s not until an employee reaches the top tier of fulfillment—inspiration—that they become truly motivated, focused, creative, and resilient.

No matter what industry you’re in or what kind of work your employees do, the success of your company depends on a culture that’s infused with purpose and meaning.

How do you, as an HR leader, create a culture that keeps employees inspired to do great work? And if pay and perks won’t do the trick, what will? Which begs the question:

How do you, as an HR leader, create a culture that keeps employees inspired to do great work? And if pay and perks won’t do the trick, what will?

How to Inspire Employees (Without Using Money)
While many leaders believe that inspiring employees to do their best work is something that requires the charisma of Steve Jobs and the HR budget of Google, that’s not the case. In fact, helping employees find meaning in their roles is far simpler than many realize.

Your Mission
To start, focus on your mission statement. How is it presented? How often is it shared? Employees who understand how their roles contribute to the larger mission of the organization are more prone to be driven by passion and purpose. But reciting your company’s core values at an annual meeting isn’t enough to instill them. Come up with creative ways to help employees connect their everyday work to your vision and values—and be sure it’s reinforced with influential messages they’re hearing year-round.

Customer Stories
One way to do this is by sharing customer stories that showcase how employees’ work is improving people’s lives. For example, you might distribute customer feedback that’s especially positive or announce when corporate profits are donated to charity and then share stories about how the money is being put to good use.

Can those stories really make a difference? Absolutely. In Give and Take, Wharton researcher Adam Grant tells the story of a university fundraising call center where revenues increased 400% after workers started hearing stories of students whose lives were being changed by school scholarships.

Employee Stories
And then there are the stories of employees themselves. Use employee spotlights to inspire coworkers and celebrate staff who are living out your core values.

Using Mobile to Inspire Employees
So…how do you go about actually sharing and disseminating these stories of inspiration? Sure, there’s always email and chat channels. Or you could post them to the company intranet. But if you really want your inspirational messages to have an impact, mobile is the way to go. A mobile employee engagement app makes it easy to tell the “story” of your company mission through compelling content, videos, and photos pushed to the pocket-sized screens your employees carry everywhere.


Looking for more inspiration? (Yep, that pun was intended.) Check out our free guide on Developing a Strong Company Culture to see how other companies are leveraging mobile to drive purpose and passion at work.


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