How To Motivate Employees Without Money

A 2017 study by the Incentive Research Foundation found that 80-90 percent of high-performing organizations used non-cash rewa...

March 19, 2021

A 2017 study by the Incentive Research Foundation found that 80-90 percent of high-performing organizations used non-cash reward incentives, while average-performing organizations were less likely to do so. Employees are especially motivated by meaning, which requires more than just cold hard cash. 

Here are some great ways you can motivate employees without cash rewards.

Recognize Employees with Meaningful Messages

By integrating Assembly into Slack or Microsoft Teams, you can easily send a recognition message that is tied to a company value. Why is this important? To maintain a strong company culture and an engaged team, employees need to know expectations and feel confident in their decisions. When you recognize their successes by tying them back to a company value, both the employee and their colleagues are able to see how specific efforts and behaviors impact overall company success.

Motivate Employees with Rewards That Fit Your Culture

If you want to motivate your employees without money, have a solid understanding of who they are and the culture you are trying to create.Assembly enables you to set up rewards that you think will excite your team members and includes a library of more than 50 personalized ideas. You may have one employee who would love a gift card to their favorite store or a donation to their favorite charity. On the other hand, someone else may be motivated by lunch with the CEO or a team party. Ask what people want and consider how each reward fits in with your culture and engagement strategy.

Keep Your Teams Motivated with Special Team Events

Team projects often occur over a longer period of time. It’s easy for employees to get burned out or lose sight of the end goal if there’s no opportunity for a pause and appropriate praise. You need to recognize your teams throughout the course of longer projects, but there are better ways to do so than cash. Instead, let your team take a breather and celebrate progress or results together. Consider a team outing like an escape room, bowling, or a catered picnic with games.

Motivate Employees with Development Opportunities

Employees need to know that their leaders understand their strengths and career goals. Oftentimes these things are only discussed during onboarding or performance reviews. Instead, use opportunities throughout the year to motivate your employees. If you notice they’re having great success in one area, ask them if they’d like the opportunity to lead a project, serve on a committee, or attend leadership meetings to share their knowledge. If you know they’d like to move into a leadership role, take time to offer them coaching or allow them to mentor a new employee.

Rethink Cash Rewards

You don’t have to completely throw cash awards out the door.Instead, think about them differently. Rather than performance-based awards, think about more timely awards. Smaller cash-based rewards spread out over the course of a year give you multiple recognition opportunities. If you are giving cash, just be sure it comes with a meaningful message. Why is the employee receiving this cash award? What was the impact of their contribution?

There are countless ways to recognize employees without cash, so don’t be afraid to get creative and integrate helpful tools and resources.

Browse our Free Employee Recognition Guide

Get the foundational knowledge on creating an employee recognition program that boosts employee engagement and helps them feel valued.

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Employee recognition guide

Frequently Asked Questions

Is Assembly SOC 2 compliant?

Yes, at Assembly, security is a top priority. Each quarter, we have ongoing security work that is everyone’s responsibility. While we maintain a strong security posture, it was important for us to prove to our customers that we do everything we claim to do. This led us to pursue a SOC 2 Type II report that would provide evidence of our compliance with industry gold-standard security practice.

What's the ROI for employee recognition?

There is study after study showing that employee recognition leads to increased engagement. This in return creates an environment where employees are happier and more motivated which increase productivity and reduces voluntary turnover significantly. In order to filled critical roles, companies tend to spend nearly twice the value of an annual salary. Assembly is an investment in your employees that supports your bottom line.

Does Assembly offer longer-term contracts?

Yes, we will offer contracts for companies with longer-term agreements to help larger customers have more certainty around future costs.

The minimum agreement term is a 12-month subscription.

Does Assembly offer onboarding support?

We do! Any new customer needing further support to get started with Assembly to ensure you're set up for success can request custom onboarding support. These one-time services start at $5,000. Improving your employee experience is about much more than just using our amazing software; it’s about transforming your business to create a workplace that people love. That’s much easier to do with the personal support and advice from our passionate people experts.

Is there a free version of Assembly?

Yes. We offer a completely free plan for up to 50 team members. This plan is intended for teams or organizations that are looking to get started with an employee engagement tool. Keep in mind, this plan is limited in features.

All customers can open an Assembly account for free and get started without a credit card. Then you can change plans as necessary.

How much do rewards cost?

At the time of redemption (when your employees exchange their points for a paid reward) you'll pay face value. If a reward is a $10 Amazon gift card, your cost will be $10. All paid rewards are billed for on a monthly basis.

The good news is that you don't have to pay for rewards upfront because we only charge you when points are redeemed, not when they're earned.

Does Assembly offer discounts?

We offer discounts or educational or charitable organizations. In order to secure a discount, you'll first need to book a demo with a customer support specialist.

For all other organizations, we are willing to consider longer-term agreements in exchange for discounts. To set up annual plans or longer, you will need to book a demo with a customer support specialist.

How do I cancel my plan if needed?

If you're on a month to month plan, you can go here and cancel anytime. If you're having concerns or need help setting up your account for success, you can always book a demo with a customer support specialist.

If you're on a longer-term custom plan, you'll need to reach out to your customer support specialist to cancel your account or email us at

What customizations are available?

Great question! You can customize your core values to match your organization's to boost and track alignment. You can change your currency from the 🏆 emoji (our default) to any emoji of your choice. You can swap our logo for your own. You can also set up company culture rewards such as, "Lunch with the CEO," "Buy a book on us," and so much more!

Who can give or receive recognition?

While we recommend a peer to peer set up where anyone in your organization can give or receive recognition, you can set up Assembly however you want. If you need to limit the people who can give or receive recognition, that's perfectly fine and can be done from your Admin, here.

What integrations are available?

Assembly connects to the tools your employees use every day to offer an easy, seamless experience with minimal change management.  

Assembly has integrations with HCM/HRIS systems like ADP, Google, Office 365, and Slack. We also integrate with communication tools like Slack and Teams so you and your employees can access Assembly wherever they work now.

What's your average adoption rate?

That depends on the company's permissions set up. That said, over 90% of the employees on Assembly's platform are recognized on a monthly basis. That means nearly every employee across all of our customers are receiving regular recognition from their peers, managers, or leadership. We're extremely proud of this.

Must rewards be set up to use Assembly?

They are not required. You can use Assembly without having rewards set up. However, we don't recommend it if you intend to have a high adoption and usage rate. You can always keep the costs down by offering internal culture rewards that are fulfilled by you internally.

Are points required to use Assembly?

No, you can remove allowances from anyone or everyone. It's up to you but we do recommend using points whether they're worth a real dollar value or not. Companies that use points have a much higher engagement rate even if those points don't exchange for real dollars.

Could find the answer you are looking for?

Please schedule time with an expert and we will help you to get all your questions answered