Why Non Monetary Incentives Are a Great Way to Motivate

Napoleon knew about non monetary incentivesNapoleon once said, “Men are moved by two levers only: fear and self-interest.”

Making people fear you works, but the people under you will hate you in the process. Your best employees will also quit as soon as something better comes along.

The alternative is to motivate people using their self-interest.

Most people think of money when it comes to self-interest incentives, but that’s also a short-sighted solution.

The reason is…

Monetary incentives quickly lose effectiveness

Money is the classic way of motivating people.

Although money can be OK in the short-term, after a while, people mentally add in the extra money or gift to what they consider to be their regular pay.

“Men are moved by two levers only: fear and self-interest.” ~ Napoleon Bonaparte – Click to Tweet

It’s no longer an incentive, and becomes more of an expectation.

I can vividly remember Christmas time at a job I used to have. Over the two previous years, all employees had been given really nice gifts. The current year had seen solid growth, so everyone expected something big.

Finally December 24th came around, but no gifts ever arrived.

It turned out that the company had decided to not give gifts that year. They didn’t tell anyone, because they thought it wasn’t a big deal.


Even though we weren’t owed anything by the company, there were A LOT of people who went home that day feeling completely ripped off by the company.

Here’s where non monetary incentives come in

There are plenty of ways to reward people for good work.

When you’re leading, it’s a good idea to spend some time figuring out how each person is different and then deciding what will be the best way to motivate that individual.

You can:

  • Chain together several small rewards
  • Give people a big non monetary incentive to work towards


  • Combine the two ideas and use small incentives on a daily or weekly basis in addition to having people set their sights on larger goals.

Here are a few examples of incentives to consider:

The incentive needs to match the accomplishment

People are happy to work hard if it will benefit their own self-interest. I know I am.

The important thing to remember when using these techniques is that the reward needs to fit the accomplishment.

It’s the same thing you would do if you were paying money.

For instance. Lengthening a lunch break by 15 minutes might be a small reward, but inviting the CEO to that lunch event might turn a small reward into something bigger.

My favourite incentives usually involve training in new techniques and extra attention from a leader that will help aspiring subordinates learn the skills needed to get promoted.

It’s up to you as a leader to find ways to help your subordinates get ahead. The faster they get ahead, the faster you will too.

It’s the little things you do each day that make you great. (You’re Making Me motto)


  1. says

    Kevin, this is a great reminder! Getting paid overtime might not be a great incentive to someone who has been away from their family for weeks. Another example are things where people do something for a cause – Money os not a motivator – the thought of making a difference is. ( Although you could see if your employer is willing to donate to the cause) :)

Leave a Reply