Business Miscellaneous

The Non-Material Motivation of Staff – How to Motivate Staff If There Is No Money

One of the most popular motivation theories of the past was Taylor’s motivation theory also known as Scientific Management. The author of this theory, Frederick Taylor, believed that all people were naturally lazy and did not enjoy working. He was also sure that whenever employees had an opportunity to take it easy and avoid working hard, they would immediately take it as they were actually not interested in the company’s success if the scope of it went beyond their personal profit. 

Because of this, he viewed the managerial process as something completely separate from the rest of the working routine and limited the employees’ autonomy to the point where it was essentially non-existent. All of the aforementioned finds a reflection in the quotations from Taylor himself, ‘In our scheme, we do not ask the initiative of our men. We do not want any initiative. All we want of them is to obey the orders we give them, do what we say, and do it quick’.

On top of that, Taylor also was convinced that ‘what the workmen want from employers beyond anything else is higher wages’, so what was at the very center of his motivation theory is piece-rate payment. This means that employees are paid based not only on the amount of work they complete but actually on the number of finished products that they manage to produce. In theory, this was an infallible approach to the situation as not only would it be beneficial for the managerial staff  interested in maximizing profits by increasing the volumes of production, but would also be a great incentive for all employees who want to earn a lot of money. 

The only catch with Scientific Management is that Taylor lived predominantly in the nineteenth century and developed this theory at the beginning of the twentieth century. While it was appropriate in the past, it hardly has any relevance in the modern age because of the immense changes in working ethics and overall culture that have occurred in society during the past hundred years.

Nowadays, people, in general, are much less motivated by money alone and want to have access to other rewards, often non-materialistic, that would encourage them to work hard and invest the maximum effort into their job. It goes without saying that pay is still an important factor that a lot of people do care about when looking for a job, but at the same time, if companies want to attract the best employees, they need to try much harder than just offer competitive pay. 

To an extent, modern people are spoiled by the variety of different incentives that companies offer in order to make the best employees choose them over their competitors. This, however, is a good thing as it means the world has collectively developed to have better living standards. 

At the moment, we are moving towards the upper sections of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, which corresponds to Herzberg’s two-factor motivation theory. In a nutshell, it suggests that there are two types of factors that are required in order to motivate employees: hygienic factors and motivational factors. The latter ones include recognition, growth, and the work itself. Those, however, are impossible to secure without ensuring that the hygiene factors are satisfied which include security, work conditions, and salary. 

So, if you want to start motivating your staff and ensure that the motivators are as effective as they can possibly get, you need to ensure that the hygiene factors are good and then move to provide your employees with the necessary non-material incentives. 

Pick Up Some Tips from Daniel Pink’s Motivation Theory

Contrary to Taylor’s motivation theory that focused primarily on money as the strongest incentive to ever exist, Daniel Pink’s theory is much closer to modern realities and takes into consideration more substantial actual motivation rewards (as opposed to providing sufficient basic working conditions) such as giving employees autonomy, mastery and purpose.  


Autonomy is at the very center of employee wishes and therefore is extremely important for staff motivation. The reason for this is not only the fact that employees get a chance to exercise their freedom of choice and manage themselves as opposed to blindly obeying the orders they receive from their bosses, but also because autonomy is an expression of respect and trust. In a nutshell, it can be stated that autonomy is closely related to employee recognition as it directly implies that the management of the company is confident in its staff competency and therefore does not need to keep them on a leash.

According to Daniel Pink, autonomy as a whole can be broken into four components: time, task, team, and technique. All of these are equally important but are also interlinked with each other. This means that if you want to truly motivate your employees, you need to give them an opportunity to decide the way in which they could complete their task. In the modern business world, managers no longer have the controlling role they used to have in the past, and rather act as mediators, coaches, and mentors. Their job is to set the task and delineate the essential parts of it such as deadlines and important requirements that need to be met in order for the task to be considered completed. The ways, however, in which the employees want to tackle this task is exclusively up to the employees themselves, as long as the quality of the finished product is high.

On top of that, employees also need to have a chance to decide who they work with and the working hours. Both these variables are easy to implement into your company’s culture if you enable an option of flexible working hours and combined remote working. This is a practice a lot of offices have already tried out with positive results. 

All of these factors make your employees more responsible for the decisions they make (since they are the ones making the choice), and hence they are more focused on ensuring they deliver the best results and therefore justify the approach they have taken.  


Even the brightest minds can stop shining if they burn out. Therefore, you need to make sure that you, as a company leader, continuously stimulate your employees to better themselves and improve their skills. Undoubtedly, all people are responsible for their own growth and you cannot force people to gain new knowledge if they are not really interested in becoming more skilled. 

If they do want to gain mastery in the field, however, you need to provide your employees with an opportunity to do so. 

While this is partially a paid venture as you do, in fact, invest in your workers’ learning process, it is an investment that has an immense ROI. 

Not only do you plant the idea that you care about your employees’ personal and professional growth, which motivates them to be more devoted to your company, but you also benefit from your staff being generally more skilled and therefore more effective in doing their job. 


And last but not least, Pink suggests that modern employees want to have a purpose as opposed to simply fulfilling their need for money and meeting the monetary goals of the company. Instead, they want to make a valuable contribution and have a positive impact on the community, even if that is a micro-community in their area. Accordingly, you need to be clear in delineating your business’ purpose, your vision, and the mission you are trying to fulfill. 

Make Sure You Create a Competitive Working Environment

One of the best ways to ensure that your employees are motivated to do their best and be as productive as they can is by encouraging competition within the company. By no means should it be a rivalry between your employees (that would be counterintuitive and actually detrimental for the overall efficiency of your business), but having a little competition could help people to activate their desire to excel at completing their tasks.

However, you need to make sure that the competition is curated and transparent. In order to do that, you need to do two things:

  • Set up a prize scheme for the winners of the competition (you need to encourage the staff to put effort into getting something they would enjoy: non-monetary rewards, praise, titles e.g. employee of the month, etc.)
  • Delineate the goals that need to be met and therefore direct the competition in the right direction

Build a Sense of Community

Another thing that is likely to motivate your employees to work harder that does not involve any money at all is building a sense of community at your company. Regardless of whether you want to retain your current employees or attract new ones, you need to make sure that you can provide a pleasant experience and make them want to stay with you for as long as possible.

Get to Know Your Employees

One of the best ways to establish a trusting relationship with your employees is by getting to know them better. This does not mean that you need to just walk around disrupting the office by talking to your employees to find out what their hobbies are. 

However, there are plenty of other ways in which you can how your staff that you genuinely care about them and are a friendly mentor who is always ready to help. Small talks, casual conversations, remembering what they like – all of it can be a great way to start and make your employees respect you more and have a bond with you.

Another way to help you build a better connection with your employees, as well as make them more connected with each other, is team building. This practice is very popular for a reason: during team building activities you get to bond with your colleagues and find out things about them that you would otherwise not know (perhaps, one of your workers met their wife on fitness dating sites).

Knowing those little things and being attentive to your employees overall will make them feel like they are working with a friend, and therefore will make them more motivated to do their best. 

Encourage Two-sided Communication

Another thing that ties in well with the previous method is keeping in touch with your people. You need to ensure that they have all the necessary support and can contact you at all times. This will show them that they have support in case of an emergency and motivate them to try and tackle more challenging tasks. 

Provide Other Rewards and Perks

This one seems to be pretty obvious but is still extremely effective at motivating staff. If you do not want to turn to material motivators for some reason, you can make your company more relevant to the workforce market by offering your employees additional rewards.

Some of the most popular things include covering your employees’ gym certificates (fitness dating is on the rise!), offering free language courses, snacks at the office, and games for lunchtimes, transfers, etc.  

Engage Your Employees in the Incentive Process

And last but definitely not least, you can turn to your employees for help! In fact, asking them to come up with some incentives that would make them want to work harder is an incentive itself. How convenient! Indeed, by involving your workers in the incentive process you give them authority and show them their importance, which is a part of recognition, one of the prime motivators according to Herzberg. 

About the author


Eric Brown

Eric Brown is an experienced journalist who enjoys writing about sport and lifestyle. He has recently launched his own website here he covers topics of great interest for modern men.