The cheapest and most powerful way to motivate your team

Estimated reading time: 3 minutes

At a university lecture, I asked the students to guess what motivates employees the most. Their answers were as follows:

  1. Money
  2. Advancement/promotion
  3. Status

Not really!

They missed the most impactful and efficient factor. Until recently, I did as well.
You gain initial satisfaction when you receive a salary increase or a bonus for the first time, but it only lasts a short while.
The next time you see that increased amount, you will take it for granted. The next time a bonus is due, you will likely expect the same; otherwise, you will be disappointed and demotivated.

What does motivate you?

So, what works?
Not only does it work for everybody in every culture, but it also provides a surprisingly high ROI.
Would you like to know what provides:

  • 8% increase in revenue
  • 26 times more engagement
  • 3% higher retention

and costs nearly nothing?
I am almost going to disappoint you, as it is so simple.
Sometimes, indeed, the solution is more straightforward than we think.
Let me tell you what is: recognition.
Is that simple?
Yes and no.

Is it so easy?

Appreciating people and telling them so works with everybody in every culture.
However, there are a few things that are proven to be counterproductive:

  • Criticising people the whole year and giving them just one compliment at the end of the said year
  • Giving them financial rewards without appreciation doesn’t work, as people feel you are buying them.
  • People can detect your intention: if you only do it as a trick to get better business results (as accurate as they can be), the employees will doubt your intention and not believe your world.


In conclusion, I leave you with 5 ways to build a strong recognition culture:

  1. Be amazed at our people and discover their abilities, personalities, and skills.
  2. Tell them as soon as possible how great they are
  3. Show your appreciation with a personalised gesture (the keyword is not the value or price, but the personal attention)
  4. Show your appreciation of individuals and groups publicly
  5. Ensure that counter messages and wrong intentions do not contradict your message of recognition.

Further reading

Additional resources


Graphic: Alexandr Mindryukov

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