Asking this question, and putting ourselves in the shoes of the whole human capital of a company, most probably the one that we work in, we would really envision the «perfect» or the «liveable» situation that people would be able to function and not having any complain.
If for example I would be an employee who would be in a team under an HR person, I would expect some sort of merit or motivation just to keep me going. For the HR person to personally come and ask people how they are doing and if they have any problems with their work, how they are with their personal lives. I would also expect from this person or department, as specialised as they are, to sense the needs for the kind of training that has to be given to them in order to progress at their work and – why not – advance. It would be in the benefit of the company. So far, in my opinion, there will be no significant cost to the company. The cost of the training will be returned by the performance and by the quality of work that the employee will give back.
For me the monetary incentive schemes are more important than training and these can be given after the above has been concluded and there is no more to give to the staff in order to improve their performance. This incentive is one that can be given to the experienced staff that is loyal and in the company for years in order to become more loyal and take more initiative, to alleviate the company from possible mistakes and lack of quality issues.
The only problem though is that everything in HR is like a cycle, one that brings the other in order for end beneficiary to taste the fruits of their contribution to the employee. If there are no good job descriptions, there is no good organigramme and there is no solid knowledge of who does what and where anybody reports to and therefore, training is not going to be correctly done due to the fact that people will not know how to go about in the workplace. As we know lack of sureness and lack of stability is a very tiring issue for the people and it brings with it less performance, less happiness and less willingness to give to the company that they are working in.
In essence, people are people and in my humble opinion it does not take that much to be motivated and be happy. It just takes respect and the fact that the company can recognise their contribution to it. To give a monetary incentive which is a bit more expensive does not mean that the employee does not give it back in means of performance. Nothing stays in one hand. Everything is give and take.