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5 low-cost ways to keep your staff motivated

In the current economic climate, many non-profit organisations are struggling to balance their books at a time when there is often increased demand on their services.  Their senior management are having to make some tough choices, such as making redundancies, freezing pay and slashing budgets, which can have a very negative effect on employee morale and engagement.

Traditional methods of boosting morale, such as financial incentives or staff benefits, may be simply unachievable for an organisation already under great financial pressure.  But failing to tackle these problems could lead to higher staff turnover and decreased efficiency.  So how can you keep your employees happy and motivated on a budget?

1.    Communicate

Perhaps surprisingly, in times of change, the best influencer of morale is always cited as better internal communications.  When staff are feeling unsettled, openness and honesty about the situation and its effects is always preferred to silence, even if the news is bad.  When managers may have to cope with a smaller workforce and increased time pressures, it can be tempting to drop regular communications, but taking the time to update employees is still vital.

It is also important that communication is a two-way process.  Brainstorming or consultation meetings, or even a suggestions box, can help staff feel that their opinions are being taken into consideration.  However, this process needs to be carefully managed and all suggestions need to be responded to and actions resulting from them explained, even if the idea is not feasible.  Ignoring suggestions can be worse than not asking for them in the first place.

Find out more about effective internal communications here.

2.    Reward and recognise

Traditional employee benefits, such as private healthcare or life insurance, can be expensive, but it is possible to reward employees on a budget.  Many organisations now offer their staff access to retail discount schemes, which allow employees to purchase discounted goods at a range of high street retailers, petrol stations, supermarkets and local businesses, either using paper vouchers, virtual banks or pre-pay cards.  There are many companies that can set this up for you, or your organisation could create its own scheme by approaching local businesses.

Your organisation could also consider offering salary sacrifice schemes, such as those for childcare, bicycles or public transport.  These initiatives are not subject to tax or National Insurance, making them financially beneficial to both you and your employees.

Rewarding employee success, for example by holding corporate awards events, can be expensive, but it is possible to recognise achievement on a budget.  A manager should always remember to thank an employee personally for an outstanding piece of work and simply sending out a group email to mention a team or individual’s contribution can generate goodwill through public recognition.

3.    Keep your staff healthy and happy

Increased workloads and fewer resources are a common symptom of economic pressures, and can lead to staff suffering from stress.  Recent research from leading mental health charity Mind shows that one in five workers have called in sick with stress, but almost all of these do not disclose the real  reason for their absence.  This can create staffing problems for management which can be difficult to solve if the underlying cause is not recognised.  The best ways to tackle this issue is ensuring that workloads are spread among staff, training managers to recognise and effectively deal with stress symptoms, and creating a climate where employees can be honest and open.

For more information on tackling workplace stress, visit CIPD website.

4.    Train and develop

Offering training and learning and development opportunities is one of the best ways to keep your staff engaged, as they continue to grow and develop.  These do not have to be expensive events using external professionals.  Make effective use of your internal resources – encouraging your best staff to coach or mentor others is motivating for both parties.

Identify key skills required for each career path, and create a personal development plan for each employee to map out their route along this path.  You can then ask their peers, senior management and HR professionals to run formal or informal training sessions based on these key skills.

Find out more about learning and development here.

5.    Control your environment

People that are happy within their working environment will work far more effectively and happily than those who are uncomfortable: it therefore makes sense to consider certain aspects of your employees workspace quite carefully.  However, you don’t need to spend huge amounts of money on interior decoration to improve your environment.

Consider encouraging employees to bring in pot plants, photos or other personal items to decorate and personalise their desks.  Allowing employees to change their workspace has been shown to help create a more attractive and stress-reducing environment.  In addition, simply ensuring that blinds or curtains are fully open in the day will bring in more daylight and can positively affect staff productivity.

Why not hold a dedicated decluttering day, where all teams work to clear their areas of clutter, unfiled or old paperwork, unused office supplies etc.  As well as creating a better working environment, this can help make sure resources are used more efficiently.

For more about the theories behind employee motivation and engagement, visit KnowHow NonProfit or CIPD.

TPP Not for Profit are specialists in the charity, arts and public sectors and help our clients both recruit and retain their staff.  For more information, visit or contact us on 020 7198 600 or