The Business Coach with Laura Murphy: Motivation on a shoe string

Question: “I want to motivate the staff but don’t have budgets for grand bonuses and suchlike. Got any ideas?” Roger

Answer: “I remember being envious when a colleague announced he was off on a golfing weekend in Spain as he’d hit the monthly sales target but not all companies can use sales as a feeder for incentive schemes. So it takes a little more imagination to satisfy an individual’s natural desire to be recognised as someone special.

There’s classic management models about motivation which can give a good insight but there’s nothing better than asking your workers what would make them happier at work. A garage owner found that his staff just wanted an extra pair of branded overalls. They struggled to clean and dry the overalls they had and often wore them longer than they should as a result. Another pair of overalls not only meant they were smarter but also happier with their clients which increased their reputation.

In another company a worker asked that colleagues support a local charity. Together they planned and ran a number of events. As a result they had a common purpose, felt good about themselves and the company and developed new skills which helped organisational growth.

And if it’s all about money explain the company’s financial position and suggest instead setting up a staff fund. Everyone contributes a small proportion of their salary (to be agreed by the staff) which is then awarded monthly or annually according to the criteria that the staff themselves has set.”


Laura Murphy is the founder of mtc2 ltd, a management consultancy, training and coaching company. Laura is an organisation development specialist and business coach. If you have a problem then contact her at

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Names and details have been changed to protect confidentiality.