I’ve written before on the Michael Page website about ways to keep yourself going at work when you’re feeling unproductive, which is not always an easy thing to do. But what about the flip-side? Sometimes, that extra boost of motivation needs to come from someone else – your manager.
Whether you supervise one person or manage whole teams of employees, it is up to you to be an inspiring leader when they need you to be, if not all the time (after all, everyone has their off days!). Best thing is, there are plenty of free or cheap ways to motivate staff – and these eight are all easy to do.

1. Upgrade job titles

No I don’t mean you have to promote someone when their output levels start to dip when they are feeling unappreciated (although don’t discount this idea either – some people genuinely deserve promotions). But, amending someone’s job title to better reflect their responsibilities can be immensely rewarding for them. In a fastcompany.com article, they found research that suggested employees were less stressed when they had input in creating their own job titles. It’s a valid idea – use yearly reviews to discuss with your team members whether they feel their current job title actually reflects what they do and if they don’t, try and come up with something that does! It costs nothing and it makes employees seriously consider the direction they think their career should be heading in.

2. Create flexible working arrangements

Do any of your employees have children? Or a massive commute? What about days where they need to lock themselves in a meeting room with a laptop to avoid distractions? I’m lucky enough to work in an organisation that has initiatives for women with babies, fathers who are on school run duty and absolutely anyone who wants to come in early on a Friday so they can leave a bit earlier on a nice summer’s day. If you give your team the flexibility to work from home now and then or amend their working hours to fit in home arrangements, you’ll see a massive boost in motivation and productivity. It needs to be agreeable to you and the employee – after all they still need to be doing their work, but you’ll probably find they work even harder when they are given the freedom to choose what works for them. See what the government counts as flexible working arrangements and rights for employees of more than 12 months.

3. Lead as you like to be led

Fairly obvious this one. If you’ve ever complained about being micro-managed or biased treatment – don’t do it to your own team. Spend equal amounts of time with team members and act as an enabler not a delegator. Speaking of delegating…

4. Delegate fairly

Don’t hog all the good projects and don’t give them all to the same person every time. Some parts of the job might be rubbish, but don’t just get someone on your team to do them for you.

5. Create informal appraisals 

Formal annual reviews don’t work for everyone, possibly because they are stiff and regulated. In 2015 Accenture announced it was dropping its annual appraisal system – and they’re not the only ones. Companies are opting for ‘smaller snapshots’ of employee feedback in order to break down barriers of formalities and distrust in the system. 

6. Be social

Have your one-to-ones over a coffee, organise a monthly team lunch (you don’t have to cover the cost, but it’s nice to be invited out!) or even a social evening get together. Plenty of bonding happens when you are outside of the office walls – and you don’t have to do those weird team building activities like building the tallest tower out of dried spaghetti and marshmallows. 

7. Shout out success

Definitely the easiest! Send a group email when someone has achieved something great – or even get everyone to gather round on a Friday afternoon and praise everyone for something they have done that week.

8. Encourage external training

Probably the only cost-inducing method of these eight ideas, but also one of the most effective. If you’re lucky enough to have been given some budget for training courses, be super proactive about getting your team to put forward what they would like to attend (within reason of course, you’re not going to fly them to San Francisco for that amazing conference they want to go to). Evaluate what will be really beneficial to the team, the company and the individual. Upskilling your staff is never a bad thing!
Like I said, I’m really lucky to work for a company that encompasses all of the above and I’ve definitely benefitted from them all when my motivation has dropped for one reason or another. And remember, you’re their manager, not their cheerleader – it’s not enough to just smile and cheer, you have to support along the way too. 
Do you have any other great ways to motivate staff for free or a low cost? Let us know in the comments box below.


Some of these methods take time to motivate people, but the methods you can start implementing right away for free are:

  1. Lead as you like to be led – that’s only up to you
  2. Delegate fairly – think before you delegate!
  3. Be social – but stay professional
  4. Shout out success – public praise is guaranteed to cheer people up
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