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Boosting employee motivation on a small budget – “show them that you care”

apple pickingHow can I increase employee engagement when budgets are getting tighter? How can I maintain staff motivation with minimal resources? These are questions many leaders and HR professionals ask themselves.

One of the HR directors participating in the Best of HR Project shared with us what methods they use to keep employees spirits high in a period of budget cuts. This is what she said:

“Motivate with small but meaningful gestures”

We are a big multicultural company. We employ 80,000 people worldwide and 170 people in our Eastern European subsidiary. Ours is not a small organisation, but it is very important to us that employees feel “at home” in our company. We are always on the lookout for creative solutions to reinforce the family-like atmosphere, which is a key element of our organisational culture.

A lot depends on the management’s emotional intelligence when it comes to motivation, especially when financial resources are scarce. Our secret is that we do care about our people. We pay attention to our employees, and we always try to come up with new ways to surprise them. These small gestures rarely cost much, but they often mean a lot to our staff.

Here are a few examples of these attentive gestures:

  • Demonstrate that the foreign management cares for local success. Each time a Hungarian sportsman or team wins a major sports event, our foreign management buys everyone a small present. Last the summer we bought all Hungarian employees an ice cream to celebrate Hungary’s success at the European Swimming Championships. This is a great way to show that we do pay attention to what’s happening around us, that we care, and that the senior managers staying in the country appreciate the local culture.
  • Recognise non-company related achievement. In many ways we are like a big family. For us it is important to appreciate employees’ non-work related achievements. A few years ago we introduced a program called “I made it”. Every employee can participate by registering their personal goal on the online surface we created for the program. The goal can be anything from quitting smoking to climbing a mountain or passing a language exam. When they have “made it” they also have to provide some evidence of their achievement, such as a photo at the top of the mountain, or a certificate. At the end of this period, a board of judges decides which achievements will win the prize. The prize is then awarded to the winners in a public ceremony. Again, we are not talking about large sums of money. It is the completion of the personal goal and the recognition of this achievement that matters. Our “I made it” program has an additional benefit: it helps our employees to get to know each other on a personal level by finding out about others’ hobbies, plans and private ambitions.
  • Do something meaningful together. At our company’s annual “global volunteer day” we find it important that our local staff have the opportunity to come up with something new and interesting. Last year we planted some apple trees together in the garden next to our office building. Now, one year later, we already have apples on our own trees. This year we organised a “cycle to work” event. Lots of our employees came to work by bicycle that day. Of course, at such events we always make sure to take photos and send them to our global headquarters to give our ideas visibility.
  • Families are important. Our employees’ families are important to us. If a colleague of ours gets married or has children, they receive a present from the company.

Look for occasions when you can give something to your employees

Our approach is that we find many different ways to give tokens, however small, to our employees to show them that we care. All this doesn’t have to cost much. When it comes to motivation and engagement, even a simple thing like an ice cream can mean a lot if your people see the personal care behind it.