3 Ways To Motivate Employees Without Offering Money

Startup Marketing
Here are three ways to motivate your startup employees.

Startup life is difficult.

One of the many struggles for startups is dealing with employee motivation.

When you’re forming your team you’re looking for people that care as much about what you’re doing as you do. If you’re in this position you might be finding that it’s difficult to get people to care as much about your company as you do.

It’s really a challenge because this startup is your baby. You conceived the idea maybe with one or two partners. You all care about it. You see the potential and you know deep down in the pit of your stomach that it’s going to work out and succeed.

But even all that passion and excitement can’t transfer to the employees you hire as you grow. Money talks in most situations so if you want the best people on your team you can offer competitive salaries, but the Catch-22 for startups is that there often isn’t that much money to offer.

So how do you get the best people on your team and motivate your employees without offering money?

Here are some good ways.

Prelude – Company Shares

Many companies get around the salary and bonus issue by offering company shares. This can often entice the best people to work for your company because it’s still a money offer. It’s a potentially big payoff later for working hard now.

Not everybody can get on board with it and it’s risky for you because you’ll have to give up a piece of the pie if things go well. But that could be well worth it if you need the best people to get you where you want to go.

So you could offer shares, but we have three more ways you can motivate employees without salary, bonuses or shares.

1. Match Passions With Work And Projects

At GBW, one of the things we try to do with each new client is to match a writer that has an interest, passion or experience that relates to what the client does.

For example, the client might offer pet grooming services. We would find a writer that loves pets, that has pets, that buys toys and cares an incredible amount for their pets. Maybe the writer would even volunteer at pet shelters.

That’s the ideal situation and finding a pet lover isn’t too challenging, but there are times when a client comes in that has a really unique business. These situations are more challenging, but we still try to find a writer that shows interest and curiosity about the project.

When you’re hiring people for your startup team it pays off to learn about their passions and interests. Ask them what their long-term goals are and try to put them in areas where their interests align. If someone is always reading marketing blogs, then put them on the online marketing team. Even if they don’t have experience you can find that they’ll do a great job because they have internal motivation and interest.

Challenge them with something they’re interested in. Achieving results by overcoming the challenge will be very rewarding and in most cases it’ll be more rewarding than a big salary for the employee.

2. Flexibility

The age of working set hours are over. Even in industries like customer service, it’s becoming more flexible. Some businesses will always be time dependent, but flexibility in time and in other areas are becoming reality. And employees are getting used to the freedom.

For example, in some jobs it can be difficult to take off for an hour to go to a doctor or dentist appointment. It can be a challenge to take a couple of hours off to run a few errands on a weekday.

Not anymore, employees are driven by employers that offer a flexible schedule. The employee loves that they can some day’s come in a couple hours late and stay a couple extra hours later in the evening. Not everybody runs on the same schedule.  You want your employees to work when they’re at their peak form.

In addition, telecommuting and working from home or wherever are becoming popular. With today’s technology there are fewer reasons to meet at an office. This can also benefit your startup from a cost perspective because you don’t need to pay huge rent on an office that you don’t need.

Make flexibility a major part of your pitch to employees, but the trick is to not lose sight of results. Base the job on results. Give employees freedom, but if they can’t get results you’ll have to fire them and look for those that can handle the freedom. In most cases, the best employees will know how to manage their time so they can get results.

3. Find People New To The Industry

I almost wrote “find young people”, but then I realized that is definitely not the right way to go about hiring.

However, you’re looking for people that are hungry and those people that are hungry are usually new to the industry. They may have just started following their passions and that doesn’t require age. Maybe they quit a job they hated in an industry they hated and are now entering your industry.

If you can find the people that are new to your industry and hungry you’ll find it easier to motivate them. They’ll be excited for the opportunity and willing to do whatever it takes to succeed. They are likely to work for less now in the hopes of building something successful and being rewarded once your startup starts earning profit with higher salaries, bonuses and promotions.


These are three ways I’ve seen startups successfully motivate employees. Another one that I’ve seen work and one I’ve actually experienced is for a company to offer new challenges to existing employees. If your employees are bored, give them a new challenge like running a new project or something like that. It can give them something to overcome and in most cases they don’t expect to be paid more. You’re simply providing new challenges.

Hopefully this post has provided some useful tips for growing your start. You want to treat your employees well. You want them to be happy. The motivations here can benefit them and you as you grow your new company.

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