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Motivating Your Staff (Without Using Money)

As managers, we all want to make positive change in our organization. Unfortunately, I find that to many of us read a book, talk about how great it sounds and then fail to implement any aspects that will change the company culture in a lasting way.In this post, I want to share a few easy techniques that helped me motivate staff in the absence of a financial reward. (Having worked in this field for over 10 years, I know performance based pay isn’t the easiest to implement). This leaves the burning questions –

  • What will employees respond to other than cash?
  • What can service providers do in the short term?
  • What are some basic ideas/tips/tricks people should know?

When I’m interested in the topic of motivating staff, I turn to the father of performance management, Aubrey Daniels. In addition to Aubrey Daniels himself, there is another person who inspired me in his organization – Joe Laipple.  I saw him speak at CalABA last year.  Right after I left his talk, I bought his two books: Precision Selling and Rapid Change: Immediate Action for the Impatient Leader.

Both of these books gave me ideas to use in my day-to-day interactions.  Although I currently develop online ABA trainings for use by clinics, schools and universities, my background is supervising front line staff with children with autism.


Takeaway #1 – Money Isn’t Everything

One of the more interesting takeaways I got from Joe Laipple is that throwing more money at someone isn’t the best way to motivate them to do their job.

Many people I know have had the opportunity to work in higher paying jobs but for some reason stay at the lower paying job. Why are people passing on a larger financial reward? Some reasons that come to mind are a great job location (‘it’s a five minute drive to my house), the hours it requires (‘I get to make my own schedule’), the stress they perceive it carries or the amount of work that will be taken home (even figuratively). Something keeps them from taking that pile of money. Something more powerful . . .

Mr. Laipple covered this in his book Rapid Change and created a table addressing this titled, Clues for Consequences that Matter.

Clues for Consequences that Matter

Increase Likelihood Decrease Likelihood
  • Fun
  • Easy
  • Simple
  • Less work
  • Effortless
  • Quick
  • Boring, tedious
  • Hard
  • Complex
  • More work
  • Effortful
  • ​Slow

There are consequences that increase the likelihood of a task occurring more often: fun, easy, simple, less work, effortless, quick.

Then there are other consequences that decrease the likelihood, such as boring, tedious, hard, complex, more work, effortful, and slow.

Seems obvious, right?  But are you (or your supervisors) improving these aspects daily, especially when bonuses and raises might not be feasible for the company? Let’s hope so. The small things make work life much more enjoyable and keep good people from jumping ship.


Takeaway #2 – Recount Accomplishments

The second big takeaway was the practice of openly discussing staff accomplishments.

At first, I assumed this practice was in place so that others in the company can hear the steps taken and also implement them (hopefully with similar results). However, there was another more impactful consequence.

If the individual can identify and verbalize the steps taken to reach their accomplishment, they will be more likely to repeat the steps in the future.  Mr. Laipple uses an example in the field of sales –

“When salespeople describe how they connect their behaviors to business outcomes, they show how they create conditions that are self-motivating. It is a sense of accomplishment, a story they owned and created.  When these salespeople figured out how to do a good job, the work itself was likely to have been reinforcing to them. When they retell that story, it gives them an opportunity to be reinforced again. Think about a time when someone shared a story of something he or she accomplished and was proud of: The retelling becomes a motivating event.”

I love this! Instead of just passing out praise, you get to hear about the process and you may even learn something from it too.

I’m glad I had the chance to see Joe Laipple speak. On top of piquing my interest in behavior management in the workplace, it was refreshing to see someone offer practical and direct solutions to improving staff performance and motivating individuals.


Put these practices into action with these easy tips

Action Item #1

We put together a few ideas that help supervisors improve the work place and work experience.

Make it FUN

  • Start fun traditions such as a spirit week (e.g., sports fan day, super hero day)
  • Celebrate anniversaries
  • Have an “Employee of the Month” picture up and let people leave sticky notes of praise on the picture.
  • Have a book club or exercise group that meets after or before work
  • Randomly have pastries or snacks around the office
  • Plan occasional group excursions

Make it EASY

  • Let high performing individuals choose their shifts and clients

Make it SIMPLE

  • Provide regular training days and forums for those to request assistance
  • Assign a mentor (a senior staff to look after them)


  • Provide technology tools that will streamline their duties (e.g., online training, digital data collection and time sheets) – this might cost money upfront but save you money in the long run.
  • Have scheduled breaks


  • Let staff train from home on their own time
  • Let staff do some of their projects from home

Make it QUICK

  • Break up teaching sessions into smaller time frames (they move from client to client every 2-3 hrs)
  • Try and give each employee one day other than Sunday that they can have to themselves.


Action Item #2

Before your next team meeting, make a list of the accomplishments your team members made over the last two weeks. (If you don’t know, ask your support staff to share accomplishments of their colleagues.)

Reinforce incremental improvement.  We need to shape behavior by reinforcing the small steps on the way to the big goal.  We can’t just wait for the monthly (or even annual) bonuses and hope that changes behavior.  Reinforcement needs to be more immediate.  This week, pick one small behavior to reinforce in your staff and catch them engaging in it and provide immediate reinforcement.

Also, pick one small thing you can simplify in your staff’s day and make a point to change one each week.  It can be something as simple as the clock in procedure or making sure that necessary materials are always on hand (e.g., paper, pens, teaching materials).  I am sure each supervisor knows of a million small things that could make the day easier for their staff.

During the meeting, go around the room one-by-one and highlight their accomplishment and ask them to share exactly how they were able to meet that goal.

With all good meetings, try to keep it brief. We run our team meetings this way and are able to successfully practice this strategy with eight people in roughly 15 minutes.

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