Top 3 Ways to Motivate Salaried Employees & the One Thing to Never Do

by | Aug 17, 2010 | Blog, Employment Policies

  • Amy Letke

    Amy Newbanks Letke, SPHR, GPHR, is the Founder of Integrity HR, Inc. Amy provides workplace solutions to improve performance, reduce liability and increase profits. She is passionate about helping other entrepreneurs and business owners achieve success. Contact us for more insights - 502-753-0970 or

So How Do You Motivate Salaried Employees?

A few weeks ago we posted a blog regarding the top myths about salaried personnel and their wages.  These posts received a lot of good feedback from managers and employees alike. If you haven’t already read them, you may want to take a look before reading today’s article.

– But I’m Salaried! – Top 5 Salary Employment Law Myths
– Dealing With Salary Employment Law Myths

One question that was raised as a result of these articles was this. How do you motivate salaried employees? If a management puts it into an employees head that he/she should be at the office from 8 to 5, what is stopping ultra efficient employees (those that can 40 hours of work in 25) from simply being less efficient and dragging out their tasks to “get in their 40 hours.”

We posted those articles because this sort of abuse of hours and time off by salaried personnel has become a hot employee relations issue with many of our clients, and we assumed that they were not alone in this.

First, A Word of Caution:

Before taking any of the actions below to motivate salaried employees please note that the implementation of some of the following measures in a formal policy should be reserved for environments in which the time off is abused by salaried personnel. Ideally, it will never get to this point, but it does happen.

In this case, only those with a recognizable problem should receive consequences (discipline). Those who recognize the responsibilities of their position along with the rights will be allowed to continue to work in a matter that best suits them as well as the company.

So how do we get to this ideal state where no one is taking advantage of their status as a salary employee?

1.)  Ensure That All Positions and Employees are Properly Classified.

If you have two people in a similar position and one is salaried and one is hourly, there is a definite disconnect and you’re going to have problems.

Without even considering FLSA fines and penalties, the salaried person is going to adopt the work habits of the hourly person. It’s just human nature.  In at 8 and out at 5, scheduled lunch and break times, no matter what.

If you want salaried employees to behave like salaried employees, make sure they are not treated like hourly employees.

**This brings up an important point about FLSA status regarding fines and penalties.  Please see the footnote at the end of this post for more.

2.) Have Good Jobs.

 A simple philosophy, sure, but we know that regardless of the monetary rewards available, employees work harder and better in jobs that they enjoy and love (this is why matching interests to positions, something we do with the use of assessments, is so important).

Listen to your employees’ suggestions, as well as requests they may make for modified work weeks.  Work with them to develop the nature and parameters of their job so that it has an intrinsic value to them and so that they feel that their efforts matter long after the work is done.  There’s no job  “too small” to have this value – in fact, if the job doesn’t have value, it doesn’t need to exist within a corporation.

3.)  Provide Feedback to the Employee.

 If an employee isn’t meeting company expectations, tell them.  Too many times managers are frustrated because an employee is not meeting standards, but fails to address them because they too believe the myths that salaried personnel don’t have to maintain a reasonable workweek (if you find yourself questioning this, read this blog post now!).

To that point, managers need to be educated about what being a salaried employee means.  Why? So that they can properly educate their staff.  This is especially important for employees as they transition from an hourly position to a salaried  position so that they understand requirements and do not rely on what they think it means.

What is the One Thing You Should NEVER Do to Try Motivate Salaried Employees?

DO NOT threaten high performers with discipline if they don’t spend X number of hours in the office each week. Don’t mandate face time if they can’t be productive during that time.

Forcing your employees to spend unnecessary time in the office will kill their morale and will only result in them dragging out their duties to fill the time that you make mandatory.  Or they’ll just spend the extra time covertly chatting with other employees and surfing the web out of spite.

Some people are much more productive in a home office. If they’re being more productive elsewhere, why would you want to change that?

If face time is that big of a deal to you then you must provide the environment for your employees to flourish. Give them rewarding work to do, and then reward them for it.

Bottom Line? Be consistent, educate your employees, provide a rewarding atmosphere, and be open and transparent with expectations. Follow these principles and you’ll be on your way to a much more productive salaried workforce.

Resources in this Post:

**Important Note About FLSA – When was the last time you did FLSA exemption testing?  If new FLSA standards currently inconsideration are passed, employers will have to provide documentation to all salaried personnel showing evidence of the testing.  Otherwise heavy fines and penalties can occur.  Give us a call if you need help with this.

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