In today’s modern business world, I am consistently asked for new ways to motivate employees that will not cost the organization in additional expenses. While we all know that money talks, it is interesting to dig deeper and determine money is not always the answer when motivating your organization for higher performance. An article published by McKinsey & Company, Motivating People: Getting beyond Money, November 2009, cited their Quarterly Survey results based on 1,047 executives, managers and employees around the world. More than 25% were corporate directors or CEOs. The motivator with the highest effectiveness rating was praise and commendation from the immediate manager (67%) followed by attention from leaders at (63%). Performance-based cash bonuses came in at (60%).

Why is the effectiveness rating so high for praise from the immediate manager? One likely reason is that the immediate manager knows exactly what the employee has accomplished. Their praise is sincere and specific, not arbitrary or superficial. There is real connection and real meaning behind the praise.

Employers would be well served to re-evaluate their reward and recognition programs. I am not asserting that financial rewards are not important, but I am saying that given the constraints of cash, non-financial incentives are capable of providing real value to employees and the enhancement of their relationship with work.

Recently, I had the pleasure of working with students from the University of South Carolina Darla Moore School of Business i3 project. The primary focus of our meetings has been the development of resumes and getting ready for interviews for the first ‘real’ job out of college.

One of my tips is the art of a good thank you note – a power thank you. A power thank you includes:

•Articulating what the person did for you
•Recognition of the effort that it took
•Communicating what their action or actions personally means to you – the value it has provided

A thank you note is a form of recognition. The tenants of a power thank you are easily transferred to various employee recognition programs, ensuring that the recognition has real meaning to the employee and the rest of the company. Recognition of an employee’s accomplishments must be specific and connected to the goals and objectives of the company – the value their actions have provided to attaining the goals and objectives of the organization. That type of sincere recognition not only communicates to the employee, it also communicates the message to all employees – this is what matters, this is our goal.

Author's Bio: 

Julia Hill-Nichols, SPHR, is the founder of LeadersCove, LLC. With over 30 years experience in operations and human capital management, Julia is gifted in the art and science of bridging strategic imperatives and a company’s human capabilities—executing for success, meeting bottom-line objectives and enlivening the people who are the organization’s lifeblood.

She has held the role of Senior Vice President, Human Resources for a Fortune 500 company, midsize companies and software start-ups. Much of her experience has been in the software, financial and insurance industries, representing significant merger, acquisition and divestiture activities.In addition, Julia is certified to administer the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator, Step I and II, the OPTM360 and the Denison Organizational Cultural Assessment.

Throughout her professional career, Julia has acted as an internal consultant to executive leadership teams, managers and emerging leaders as they strive to build successful companies, bringing out the very best in all staff.