Top tips for small businesses: Rewarding & motivating employees

Barnaby Lashbrooke, 30, is the founder of a new employee benefits scheme called The Beyond Card, which contains perks like access to VIP airport lounges and a concierge service, as well as discounts on holidays, dining out and leisure activities at a low monthly per user cost to the employer. Here he gives his tops tips for rewarding employees.

1. Do staff rewards make business sense?
This the first question business owners should be asking. The businesses that should be rewarding staff are those where the value of the company lies in the people they hire, such as the media, sales or service industries. These are the types of companies that need to attract the very best candidates and retain them.

2. Pick your moment
Reward for hard work, meeting project targets or hitting company milestones and you will find that your staff are more motivated next time around. While some employers will reward after projects are completed, others make staff aware of the rewards they will receive for hitting specific targets beforehand, so they have something to aim for.

3. Reward fairly
A friend of mine told me that her company gives a £50 bonus and an extra day’s annual leave to every employee that gets engaged. A thoughtful perk indeed, but then I asked what those who choose not to get married, or those that join the company and are already married, receive. ‘Nothing, as far as I know’, was the response. Make sure that rewards in place across the company do not exclude people.

4. Perks need not cost the earth
If you are strapped for cash, covering the cost of your staff’s lottery syndicate or buying one prize and entering all staff for a monthly prize draw are just two ideas that will not cost the earth but will keep employees motivated. Likewise, rewarding hard work with an extra day’s annual leave, particularly during quiet periods such as between Christmas and New Year or on birthdays, will make little difference to employers, but give a huge boost to staff.

Other low-cost perks might include ‘a duvet day’ granted after one year’s service that can be taken on a day of your employees’ choice throughout the year, a lie-in on their birthday or takeaway pizza for those who stay in the office to work late.

However, an incentive need only be kind words and recognition from the boss. One employer I know would send his employees ‘Herograms’ full of praise for good work. These were lengthy, carefully composed, morale-boosting emails explaining why he was so pleased with them.

5. Choose appropriate gifts
Giving a bottle of whisky to someone who does not drink, or chocolates to someone who is dieting will not be as well received as a well-chosen, thoughtful gift. Knowing your employees helps. If you do not socialise with your staff, there is no harm in engaging them in conversation and getting to know them a bit better. By having that chat, you might find out, for example, that your employee is about to run a marathon, so a voucher for a sports shop or sponsorship for their chosen charity would be well-received. Similarly, if you plan an evening out for your staff, give plenty of advance notice for those who have family commitments.

6. Think outside the box
One of the key reasons that business owners incentivise and reward is to retain the best team possible. The more interesting and unusual the reward, the more likely your employees are to spread the word and talk up the company. Some of the more thoughtful rewards I have come across were a company boss taking his team, all literature lovers, to see Shakespeare’s Henry V at The Globe, telling clients in advance that they would be shutting down the office for an afternoon. Another introduced ‘ice-cream Friday’ during the summer months and kept a supply of picnic blankets in the office that staff could use when eating their lunches outside in the nearby park. Another makes his team finish at 4.30pm on the dot on a Friday afternoon, and have a beer in the office.