Incentives vs. Dollar$ – Small-business owners should look to feed the soul, not just the wallet when looking for incentives

New year. New goals. New plans.

The small business owner is bombarded by salespeople walking through the door trying to be the first one to sell their respective product right out of the gate. Don’t forget the employee who will also remind you that they were here this time last year and the typical way to say “thanks for still being with us” is with a salary increase.

Of course you can’t afford it. No one budgets for their payroll to rise a fixed percentage every year. So, what do you do? Giving a standard increase across the board may buy some goodwill, but the folks that live and breathe your business want more than the guy who’s done little more than keep his chair warm.

How about suggesting that you all build the business together?

Share your goals with your staff. Don’t run through every line item on the P&L, but explain where you are and where you want to be. They all want the business to grow, too. They should if they want to continue with the same amount of hours and benefits.

So, perhaps incentives can go farther than simply increasing the paycheck. If you took a percentage increase in payroll and an additional increase in payroll taxes, what would that number be? What types of things can you do with half that number?

When investigating incentives, first think about things that can’t be bought with money. How about time? Do you offer a flexible working environment? Perhaps someone would like to work longer on certain days if there’s a benefit of leaving early on others.

Would someone rather work on Sunday than Tuesday? Even if you’re closed on Sunday, many things need to be accomplished that don’t require the business to be open simultaneously.

Is there a piece of equipment that many in the office wish were upgraded? Set a sales goal that all participate in. If the goal is achieved, you can afford the upgrade. Maybe some friendly competition within the office. A gift certificate for a dinner for two or lunch on the company can ignite that winner-take-all mentality.

It doesn’t have to be daily, but most employees want to be recognized for their work, not just given an increase in pay. Do you have specific times of year that are the busiest revenue wise? If so, maybe staff works longer during those months and can work a little shorter in the softer months.

For the employees that simply want more money, encourage them to tell you what they are going to do to drive your business this year that they didn’t do last year. You’re not automatically worth more money because you still work here.

Every position has a “cap” where it simply doesn’t make sense to pay over that amount for the expectation. Are they willing to take on extra duties or learn new components of the business?

You don’t want your staff to be stale. How about paying for a seminar to teach them skills they don’t have now? Helping your employees grow, even to a point that they may need to move on to keep growing, is the responsibility that comes with having a business.  People appreciate when the boss has that mentality more than most bosses think.

What creative ideas have you used to motivate your employees?

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