Are your employees enthusiastic about their work? Or do they show up tired and cheer up only when 4 p.m. rolls around? Unfortunately, many businesses experience the latter scenario, which ends up costing companies money and adversely affecting employees' job satisfaction.

Research has shown that employee morale is more important than many might realize. People are far more productive and creative when they have more positive emotions, according to a recent Gallup study, which added that the lost productivity due to employee disengagement costs more than $300 billion in the United States each year - a shocking amount by any standard.

In this article, we'll take a look at five not-so-common ways in which employers can motivate employees to perform at their best without spending a lot of money. Notably, many of these techniques have also delivered auxiliary benefits for companies that employ them, from new and innovative products to a more efficient and knowledgeable workforce.

Let Employees Take a Nap at Work
Researchers at the University of California, Berkley recently conducted a study showing that a mid-afternoon nap improved learning/performance by 10% compared to the control group that performed 10% worse. The researchers hypothesize that the gain was caused by a transfer of knowledge from short-term to long-term memory centers in the brain.

Some European countries already allow mid-afternoon naps as a part of their workdays, but successful U.S. companies like Google, Zappos, Nike, AOL and Deloitte have popularized these perks more recently. These policies often apply to both hourly employees and upper-level management alike, as it seems to tangibly improve job performance.

Let Employees Define Their Own Work
Paul Stamatiou, a young Silicon Valley entrepreneur, recently wrote, "How do you attract those Jobsian A-players? It's with a culture where people can thrive and tackle problems they find interesting. It's not with offering a standing desk and beefy computers … [or] showing off office pictures of employees playing around with Nerf guns. Those are gimmicks."

Obviously, giving employees complete freedom may result in some problems. But many companies have successfully developed programs to let employees work on their own side projects that still relate to the company. For instance, 3M lets employees spend 15% of their day working on their own side projects. The result: the Post-It Note (among other things).

Encourage Constant Career Learning
Many employees become disengaged when their jobs are unbearably monotonous, which can happen easily if they are never learning new things. Learning new jobs and roles can be instrumental in curing this boredom and keeping employees engaged. In fact, one study by Arnold Worldwide found the single most important motivational factor for employees is the ability to learn.

The best way to promote constant learning is to bring employees into larger projects that increase their responsibilities, while ensuring that grunt work (e.g. work where no learning occurs) is properly managed by balancing it with more stimulating work. It's also important to ensure that employees know how all the work benefits the company over the long-term.

Publicly Recognize Good Work
Money may be the most common way to recognize good work, but there are plenty of other ways to effectively reward talented employees. Public commendations (via a cc'd email or verbal comments in a public setting) are particularly valuable, as the employees feel supported by both management and the rest of the company, including executives.

Give Frequent and Specific Feedback
In a survey, the results of which were published in the Wall Street Journal, 65% of "Generation Y" workers at Ernst & Young indicated that "providing detailed guidance in daily work" was moderately or extremely important, compared to just 39% of baby boomers. Moreover, 85% of the Gen-Y employees indicated that their age group peers desire "frequent and candid performance feedback," compared to just 50% of baby boomers.

Perhaps it's because of the Internet's instant gratifications, but younger workers seem to require a lot more feedback to remain engaged and motivated. That feedback should be given regularly and candidly, rather than superficially at annual reviews, in order to ensure things are running smoothly and employees are performing at their best.

The Bottom Line
The five techniques outlined in this article provide well-researched ways to improve employee morale and productivity. While some of these techniques are immediately employable, such as providing feedback or publicly recognizing good work, others may require some testing and modification before they prove to be highly-effective in business environments.

Related Articles
  1. Investing

    Smart Farming Technology Storms Silicon Valley

    Silicon Valley may be known for growing tech startups, but now the iconic region is welcoming an entirely new breed of residents, startups focusing on smart farming.
  2. Economics

    Explaining Quality Control

    Businesses use quality control to ensure their products and services meet a certain standard, as well as any industry regulations.
  3. Professionals

    Consider A Career As A Financial Communications Professional

    Regulators, sales people and clients all look to communications professionals to help them navigate the markets.
  4. Investing News

    Are High Valuations In Silicon Valley Over?

    Silicon Valley valuations, which hit the roof earlier this year, are coming down to earth. What caused the rise? And, what brought about their downfall?
  5. Fundamental Analysis

    How Nasty Gal's Sophia Amoruso Built a Fashion Empire

    In 2006, Nasty Gal founder Sophia Amoruso planted the seeds for what would become an online fashion empire. Here's how.
  6. Markets

    The Biggest Companies in Silicon Valley

    Understand what types of companies are the most successful in Silicon Valley. Learn about the top six largest Silicon Valley companies by market cap.
  7. Investing Basics

    How Junk Food Earns Mondelēz $35B a Year

    How and why Mondelēz spun off from Kraft. Where the company is going, and how it profits on multiple continents.
  8. Economics

    What Is Servant Leadership?

    Servant leadership emphasizes innovation, employee empowerment, and the development of leaders who serve an organization’s stakeholders first.
  9. Economics

    Understanding Corporate Culture

    Corporate culture encompasses the beliefs and behaviors that determine how a company and its employees interact and how they work with customers.
  10. Economics

    Time to Worry About a Profit Recession?

    3rd Q earnings season, a weak global economy, a strong dollar and collapsing energy prices suggest that the U.S. may be in the midst of a profit recession.
  1. Why is social responsibility important to a business?

    Social responsibility is important to a business because it demonstrates to both consumers and the media that the company ... Read Full Answer >>
  2. How do you conduct effective social responsibility training?

    One way to provide employees with effective social responsibility training is to base training sessions on resources offered ... Read Full Answer >>
  3. How important are business ethics in running a profitable business?

    A number of factors play a part in making a business profitable, including expert management teams, dedicated and productive ... Read Full Answer >>
  4. What advice does Howard Schultz offer would-be business moguls?

    Starbucks CEO, billionaire and former sports tycoon Howard Schultz has several pieces of advice for would-be moguls and, ... Read Full Answer >>
  5. How does brand image and marketing affect market share?

    A company's marketing efforts have a direct impact on sales and market share, but they are not the only factors that influence ... Read Full Answer >>
  6. What is Tim Cook's managerial style?

    Tim Cook's managerial style could be broadly defined as democratic. Rather than standing in complete contrast to former Apple ... Read Full Answer >>

You May Also Like

Hot Definitions
  1. Barefoot Pilgrim

    A slang term for an unsophisticated investor who loses all of his or her wealth by trading equities in the stock market. ...
  2. Quick Ratio

    The quick ratio is an indicator of a company’s short-term liquidity. The quick ratio measures a company’s ability to meet ...
  3. Black Tuesday

    October 29, 1929, when the DJIA fell 12% - one of the largest one-day drops in stock market history. More than 16 million ...
  4. Black Monday

    October 19, 1987, when the Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJIA) lost almost 22% in a single day. That event marked the beginning ...
  5. Monetary Policy

    Monetary policy is the actions of a central bank, currency board or other regulatory committee that determine the size and ...
  6. Indemnity

    Indemnity is compensation for damages or loss. Indemnity in the legal sense may also refer to an exemption from liability ...
Trading Center