Five ways to motivate your workforce on a small budget

Mar 30, 2015 | Good Management

Every employer wants motivated employees who strive to meet the goals of the organisation but how to create a culture that fosters that aim? In a small organisation with very tight budgets, big pay rises, bonuses or expansive commission schemes may not be much of an option. However for most people money is not necessarily a big motivating factor anyway, so here are our top five ways to help motivate your workforce on a small budget.

Get the basics right

It may be obvious, but clear communication, policies, processes and procedures that are followed and applied fairly give the best foundation. If your employees don’t feel secure and that they know what is expected of them it will impact on their attitude and behaviours. Getting the basics wrong can mean that workers do not deliver what you need and will be unlikely to want to go the extra mile when necessary. Similarly, although financial reward is not a big motivator, real or perceived unfairness in financial reward is certainly a demotivating factor.


Recognition is not just about acknowledging exceptional results it is also about acknowledging consistent satisfactory or good performance. Strong performance management processes often motivate and drive performance better than cash rewards or other expensive perks and can be used will all employees whether they are underperforming, over-performing or they are coasting at a satisfactory level; people like to have management take an interest in what they are doing. That said, there can be a place for performance related rewards but careful consideration must be given to ensure they will actually give the desired result and that they will not cause resentment and division in individuals or teams.


An engaged workforce is highly motivated and more likely to deliver improved business performance.  Common features of engaged employees include feeling they have opportunities to share their views with management, that they are well-informed about what is happening in the organisation and that their manager is committed. It can be difficult to know how employees really feel but there are several methods you can use, depending on the size and type of your organisation: gather ideas and feedback informally over a coffee or lunch or try a more formal option such as regular employee forums, satisfaction surveys or a very low-tech suggestion box.  Whatever options you choose make sure feedback is acknowledged and any issues raised are addressed promptly – even if it’s just to say there’s nothing you can do and why.

Job satisfaction

An employee who feels that their job is of value and is a good fit for their skill set is more likely to be motivated. If you want to know how satisfied someone is with their job the quickest way is just to ask them. This can either be in person at a one-to-one or you may choose a more anonymous method such as a feedback form.  Where you have an employee who is dissatisfied with their job and you wish to retain their skills it may be worth investing in additional training or qualifications or simply putting together a development plan.

Team work

A shared purpose and feeling like part of a team can knit people together in a way like nothing else and has been shown to increase both employee job satisfaction and motivation. When creating teams or a feeling of team work, it may be tempting to group similar people together but in reality, research has suggested that successful teams are more likely to be diverse.  This is useful for small organisations who may feel there are not enough employees to create teams but all you need are two people to share a purpose to create a sense of team work. 
Considering the big picture and looking into the more intrinsic motivators for employees will help you achieve a committed high performing workforce even if your budget for remuneration is tiny. And the resulting high performance will with any luck improve financial results in the organisation and give you more flexibility in pay decisions down the line.
If you would like further advice on motivating your workforce on a small budget, do get in touch.