Ever wonder why employees really quit? A recent Manpower Group study of nearly 20,000 job quitters reveals some rather intriguing facts.

FACT: 89 percent of employers believe that employees leave because of money.

FACT: 88 percent of employees leave because of things other than money.

According to the study, here are the top 10 reasons employees quit:

  1. Limited career opportunities (16 percent)
  2. Lack of respect/support from supervisor (13 percent)
  3. Money (12 percent)
  4. Lack of interesting/challenging job duties (11 percent)
  5. Lack of leadership from supervisor (9 percent)
  6. Bad work hours (6 percent)
  7. Unavoidable reasons (5 percent)
  8. Bad employee relations by supervisor (4 percent)
  9. Favoritism by supervisor (4 percent)
  10. Lack of recognition for contributions (4 percent)

How do you motivate your staff when you can’t afford to give them a raise? One way is to use a different kind of currency. Contrary to popular belief, money is not the best motivator because it sends the message that nothing is worth doing unless you get paid extra.  This can develop a sense of entitlement that quickly becomes a bottomless pit and does nothing to increase job satisfaction.

Employees want to be recognized as individuals, shown appreciation, and be given opportunities to grow. Ryan Robinson, owner of Do Dat Entertainment, operates under the mantra that an unhappy employee is an unproductive employee. He tells Entrepreneur magazine in a recent interview, “I keep my people motivated by telling them how their input specifically contributes to a successful project.” “I make sure all of my people feel they are an asset and part of the bigger picture.” Robinson gets results from providing his staff with continual positive reinforcement.

Ask any human resources leader or executive what major challenges they face in motivating and inspiring employees right now and most will say they are still reeling from budget cuts, layoffs, and shuffling employees across the organization. Consequences still linger over salary freezes, layoffs, and elimination or reduction of bonuses and perks. Some employees are cynical and others are fearful. Creating a sense of optimism among survivors has been very challenging.

Given the current economic climate of cutbacks and cost saving, how do you go about inspiring and energizing people to drive your company forward and execute your recovery strategy?

Let me first share this important observation: communication is the KEY to motivating people. If you’ve had to cancel your company’s summer party, cut pay across the board, reduce hours, or eliminate travel – and these are all legitimate actions – but they do require an explanation. People may assume things are worse, or better than they are – unless you let them know what’s going on. Communication needs to be present and consistent in good times and bad. By communicating a big picture vision and discussing the company’s goals, while helping people to see how they fit in, you will energize your employee base in a powerful way. Be open and honest with employees about what’s going on in your company, and offer venues for their suggestions, concerns, or thoughts.

There are many ways that you can create a more fun, resourceful, and energized atmosphere. In challenging times, it’s even more important for people to get together, talk, and even laugh—while on the job.

Here are four low cost or no cost ways to motivate people and create a more collaborative atmosphere:

1- Creative Recognition

Employees rate recognition as one of the most powerful motivational factors. Workers who feel their efforts are contributing directly or indirectly to the bottom line and betterment of the company are more engaged and in turn, more efficient. Here are some creative cost-effective ways to recognize employees for a job well done:

  • Call an employee into your office just to say thank you without discussing any other issue.
  • Write a thank you card or e-mail.
  • Create an employee newsletter to share updates and recognition.
  • Post a bulletin board for employees to share news, hobbies, and recognition.
  • Reserve the best parking spot for an employee-of-the-month.  Let staff decide how the spot is earned.
  • Send out a Friday email with “good news” from the week, highlighting the achievements of each of your team members.
  • Starbucks or local restaurant gift card.
  • If your company has a corporate blog, blog about something you heard from an employee that you found interesting, or an achievement. If your company doesn’t have an internal blog, start one!
  • Make up some new awards and give them out to employees at the next meeting.
  • Make a part of every Friday a “walk-around time” to visit people you don’t see all the time.
  • Publicly praise others as accomplishments happen – send out a note/email etc. whenever someone achieves something noteworthy.

2- Social Events

Regularly scheduled “time outs” within or outside the office environment can also be a strong motivator. Many workers consider their peers their “second family” so having time to converse and socialize without feeling obligated to be at work can go a long way in creating a happier work environment. Schedule regular potlucks, Friday afternoon get–togethers, or even social events and create light-hearted awards that recognize something unique about each person like, “Best Screen-Saver,” “Snappiest Dresser,” or “Best/Worst Joke Teller,” and present them at a potluck lunch. Potlucks outside the office are also a cheap way for employees to get together and connect, meet each others’ families, and socialize.

Offering a Community Service Day whereby the entire team, department, or maybe the entire office invests a day of their time to help neighborhoods thrive wherever they do business can be a catalyst for positive change within any organization by inspiring teamwork and relationship building. Starbucks employees alone accounted for more than 230,000 hours of community service in just 30 days.

3- Education, Skills Building, and Professional Development Opportunities

One of the main reason employees quite their job is the lack of career advancement opportunity. Education is always a great perk. Even if advancement opportunities are limited, giving workers a chance to build on their skill set or take courses of interest is a great way to keep them engaged. Even offering workshops, seminars, and events outside of the company’s main line of business will contribute to a more cooperative and engaged with each other environment:  Here are some ideas:

  • Cross-train employees on job duties other employees do so you have a deeper bench of knowledge to pull from.
  • Consider reimbursing for professional memberships or allowing employees to attend professional association events.
  • Have on-site fitness classes.
  • Encourage employees whose first language is not English to take English as a second language or accent reduction classes.
  • Send employees to learn a foreign language.
  • Bring in a teacher for CPR and first aid training.
  • Create a change of pace by giving employees a chance to work on exciting projects or learn new skills.
  • Book a community speaker to speak on subjects of interest to employees like personal finance, stress management, or improving relationships.
  • Help build skills with a training library filled with books, tapes, and other resources that employees can check out.
  • Treat employees to a massage, or bring in an instructor who can teach stress-reduction techniques like meditation, tai chi or yoga.

4- Time Off

What’s more valuable than money? Time. Some companies who can’t give their employees a raise have started offering an extra day off per year. Offer a creative twist to holiday pay. Instead of the standard holidays, allow employees to have their birthday or job anniversary as paid time off. Consider also providing pay while philanthropic employees volunteer their time and talents to nonprofits. If it makes sense in terms of productivity and operations, offer flexible summer schedules or a condensed work week.