Beyond Group Hugs and Gold Stars: Rewarding Employees in Small Business

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Whether you have a team of dozens, hundreds, or even just one, it’s often true that your employees’ mood determines the mood of the business.  Keeping your team happy will pay enormous dividends, from better morale to increased productivity to plain old less stress.  But how do small businesses reward employees?  If you have a generous commission program, that likely provides incentive to work for sales.  But if you’re a startup without a ton of cash on hand, or if a commission plan isn’t right for you right now, or if you need a little zip in addition to commissions, you may benefit from a few more creative reward options.

Recognize successes, both large and small

Give out formal awards (certificates, plaques, Miss America sashes…) and informal awards (high-fives, Slurpees, whatever you can) freely.  No one wants to feel like what they do goes unnoticed.  When your employees know that someone cares when they’re doing a good job, they’re happy.  When employees are happy, customers are happy.  When customers are happy…do you see where I’m going with this?  Appreciation begets appreciation, and everybody wins.

Provide cool experiences

Maybe you can’t slip everyone a cool $100 dollar bill at the end of a good day (although, if you’re handing them out, count me in).  It might be more feasible to take everyone to lunch at the end of a good week, or catch a spontaneous matinee movie on a slow Friday afternoon.  A Tuesday morning Frostee run might be just the ticket.  Even if you can’t pay them a lot, showing appreciation in creative ways helps employees feel valued.

Barter for rewards

Depending on your type of business, local businesses may be willing to trade for services, providing you with gift certificates to give out for employee incentives without breaking the bank.  Does your neighbor have a booth at the state fair?  Maybe he’ll you’re your team free corn dogs and cotton candy this summer in exchange for mowing his lawn.

Give time off

While it’s obviously not going to be possible very often, letting employees go home early is a cheap and rewarding way to say, “Good job!”  Even a surprise long weekend (“You know what?  Everyone stay home on Monday!”) can go a long way in boosting morale.

Let your employees know when they’re doing well and those good vibes will boomerang on back to you.  When they’re happy, you’re happy and so are your customers.  ((insert high five here))