How to motivate people when you can't give them a rise
Coaching expert Matt Somers looks at the factors that need to
be considered when motivating staff without using a pay rise.
This is not yet another article on the relative merits and
demerits of money as a motivator. That has been done to death.
I want instead to face up the reality of the current situation
and acknowledge that pay rises for the next year or so are going to
be fewer and further between and even then not at the levels of
It is organisations that make the grand statements about pay
freezes, but individual managers who are left the task of fostering
Let's begin with the basics
- It's difficult to get people to do anything at work if they
don't really want to
- Motivation remains one of the most important components to get
right when managing people
- Alongside coaching people to achieve reach their potential we
need to ensure they are motivated to do so
For the longest time, fear was the main motivation tool, from
the whipping of slaves to the beating of stable boys. More recently
variations of the carrot and stick have been favoured. Money and
promotions are used as carrots and disfavour and loss of income are
used as sticks.
But perhaps we need tools more sophisticated than those we use
to motivate donkeys?
Consider this list of 'motivators'
Money, Incentives, Status, Holidays, Bonuses, A worthwhile job,
Self-esteem, Pride, Self-actualisation, Achievement, Fun, Getting
better, Self-development, Socialising, Praise, Career prospects,
Recognition, Belonging, Safety, Security
What do you notice?
What about now?
||A worthwhile job
The left hand column contains external
motivators. They need to be supplied by somebody else. Without them
there is no motivation but by themselves they are not enough to
really motivate people.
We also need the internal motivators listed in
the right hand column. These keep people motivated over a much
longer timeframe and are more readily influenced by individual
The various internal motivators can be summarised and arranged
on a triangle:
- Performance is about the motivation that comes
from the prospect of doing a job and doing it well; drawing on
people's potential and letting them play to their strengths.
- Learning is about much more than training and
qualifications; it's about giving people work that is interesting
- Enjoyment is about providing work that is
intrinsically enjoyable not just arranging team nights out.
However, if we focus on any one of these key sources of internal
motivation at the expense of the other two, there will always be
problems sooner or later.
Any one can be placed at the top of the triangle but we always
need the other two.
- Too much studying without an opportunity to act of what we've
learnt becomes frustrating and learning suffers.
- Too much enjoyment becomes boring after a while and we don't
enjoy our time as much.
- Too high a focus on performance lessens the chance to learn and
enjoy which makes sustaining high levels of performance more
One of our client organisations required its production line
employees to spot faulty parts.
This was not being done well and targets were being missed.
Managements response was effectively "Do better, or else"
However, in an effort to implement the other elements of
internal motivation, they arranged quality circles to discuss how
improvements to the fault finding process could be achieved
(Learning) and also a competition for finding faulty parts with fun
prizes for the winners (Enjoyment).
Naturally, motivation and consequently performance improved.
I'm certainly not arguing that external motivators are not
useful or relevant; quite the opposite, but as a line manager I
recommend coaching around the opportunities for Performance,
Learning and Enjoyment, particularly when financial rewards are
"True motivation comes from achievement (performance),
personal development (learning), and job satisfaction
(Enjoyment)" Frederick Herzberg (and he knew a thing or two
about this stuff).
Matt Somers publishes his fortnightly Coaching Secrets
newsletter for leaders and managers, and anyone else who must
achieve results through people. If you need to help your people
manage change and improve motivation, get your free guidance now at