When you’re thinking about motivating your employees, the first thing that comes to mind is incentives. When thinking about incentives, you instantly think about money and a better position. Yes, higher pay and a promotion may act as an incentive. This person will be motivated to do their work better. But can you give them promotions all the time?

If you get your employees used to promotions and money as the only incentives, you’re only motivating them for a short period of time. Sure, they will be coming to work with a smile on their face for a month or two. After that, they will go back to being their old selves. After a year or two, they will expect another promotion. If you don’t give it to them, they will be utterly unmotivated to do the job you’re paying them for.

Look, we’re not saying you shouldn’t give promotions. They are cool when needed. When your company needs someone on a higher position and you know that a current employee could perform it well, then the promotion is definitely a good decision. However, you shouldn’t look at it as the ultimate incentive for boosting motivation.

Show Them That There Are Opportunities for Growth

Although promotions are not the only incentive you have up your sleeve, it’s still something that most employees expect. A survey of millennials showed that growth and development were top reasons for them to join a company.

So you have to turn development into a motive for good performance. Explain that career progression is an option at your company, but it has to come at the right time and the employee must deserve it. You shouldn’t promote people to get them motivated. The relation goes the other way around: they should be motivated so that they will get a promotion.

Shift Them on Another Position; It Doesn’t Have to Be a Promotion

Did you notice that someone is getting bored in their current role and shows capacity for growth? Well, a promotion is not the only way for you to give them an opportunity to grow. You should consider lateral moves across the organization. Talk to this person to find out what areas of interest they have.

Alannah Morrison, team leader at CareersBooster, is a fan of this approach. “By moving people around, you’re pushing them to learn more. Without such opportunities, you’ll start losing them. If, for example, I see that someone from my team of writers is pretty great in writing marketing-related content, I’ll suggest them to take a place in the marketing department. It won’t be a raise and the pay will probably stay the same. The fresh opportunity, however, is highly motivated. From there on, they can work towards growth.”

Invest in Their Skills

If you can’t promote someone at this moment, that doesn’t mean you can’t encourage them to develop new skills. Evaluate the skills and achievements of each member of your team. Think: what aspects of their skill set could they improve? What new skills would make them better at their jobs?

If, for example, someone from your team does a great job in social media management, you can sign them up for a writing course. By improving their writing skills, their overall achievements will improve and they will be able to bring out their creativity in the communication with the audience.

If you’re not sure what kind of training you’d want to provide for your employees, just ask. Their feedback will give you a direction.

Start a Mentorship Program

The people on higher positions in your organization can provide excellent guidance for the remaining employees. Make sure everyone has a mentor. Those who are already on a high position can have the leader as their mentor.

When you develop these connections within the company, everyone will have someone to look up to. They will see what it takes for a higher position and they will get motivated to actually earn that promotion they want so much.

Acknowledge Their Worth

Recognition comes in many forms, and promotion is only one of them. People get a motivational kick simply from the leader’s acknowledgment for a job well done. To make the recognition formal, you can provide a certificate for a specific achievement. You can also buy the entire team lunch and give some extra praise to the distinguished workers in front of everyone.

With this approach, you’re letting them know that their efforts and talent are not being unnoticed. The promotion will come when it’s time for that step.

Growth opportunities are important, and you should definitely work on that aspect of your business. However, you have to be very careful with the promotion. They are not a tool for motivation. Promotions are something the employees have to deserve, and they have to be motivated enough to deserve them. If you follow the tips above, you’ll get them motivated even when a promotion is not an option at this moment.

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