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Motivating Without Money

Motivating Without Money

By Matthew Boyle | BusinessWeek

June 18, 2009

Keeping employees engaged is critical during an economic downturn. Here are some smart ways to do it.

In the months after September 11, as business activity slowed to a crawl, Steve Kerr, then the chief learning officer at Goldman Sachs (GS), launched a leadership seminar for senior managers that he nicknamed “Motivating Without Money.” The daylong sessionsdiscussed how Goldman’s managers could use nonfinancial incentives to energize their staff. While well received, the seminar was discontinued when business perked up again a year or so later.

Last fall, however, Goldman brought it back, widening the audience to include Goldman’s clients. (It’s now called “Motivating Your People in a Challenging Environment.”) “We got more people than I expected,” recalls Kerr, now a senior advisor to the bank and author of a new book, Reward Systems. As for why bonus-obsessed Wall Street hotshots would be so receptive to his “money isn’t everything” message, Kerr says: “I guess any reward in tough times is valuable.”

Low Morale After Layoffs He’s got that right. These days, with layoffs rampant and companies slashing budgets across the board to weather the economic downturn, motivating employees to bring their “A” game to the office every day is harder than ever. According to a survey of nearly 80,000 employees by the Corporate Executive Board, one in every five employees now consider themselves disengaged from their job, compared with one out of ten last summer. What’s more, two out of three companies surveyed in late 2008 by market research firm Quantum Workplace had lower overall employee engagement scores compared with a year earlier.