By Karen Axelton

87460398What does it take to motivate your employees—especially when you can’t afford to use financial means to do so?

The good news is that a recent survey from McKinsey & Co. shows money isn’t the biggest motivator. The survey looked at three non-cash motivators (praise from supervisors, attention from the company’s leaders, and the chance to lead a project) and found they were just as effective (in many cases, more so) than the top-rated financial incentives.

Here are the percentages of respondents that stated each type of motivation was “very” or “extremely” effective:


  • Performance-based cash bonuses – 60 percent
  • Increase in base salary – 52 percent
  • Stock or stock options – 35 percent


  • Praise by immediate manager – 67 percent
  • Attention from leaders – 63 percent
  • Opportunity to lead projects – 62 percent

As you can see, even the lowest-ranked non-financial incentive ranked higher than the highest-ranked cash incentive. What’s more, this survey was conducted among larger companies. As a small business, it’s even easier for your company to offer praise, attention and the chance to take the lead—the motivators that employees value most.