We all know incentives are important. Everyone wants to feel appreciated — that’s just human nature. A 2016 WorkHuman Research Institute report “The ROI of Recognition in Building a More Human Workplace” shows that recognition not only makes employees happier at work — but also outside the workplace, with 70% of employees surveyed stating it makes them happier at home. Perhaps less obviously, it also contributes to trust in leadership. While nearly 90% of people who receive timely recognition or thanks from their boss indicate higher levels of trust in that boss, only 48% of employees who receive no recognition indicate they trust their higher-ups.
While a “thank you” is the simplest — and freest — form of recognition, many of us want to also show appreciation through more formalized incentives. However, finding the resources to compete with the kind of flashy rewards corporate giants can provide — especially when you’re just a small team or start-up — can be tough. Luckily, some of the best things in life are free (or at least cheap).
Consider these five mighty incentives for the budget-conscious:
Obvious, maybe, but less obvious is that they don’t just have to be for your sales team. Attract top talent (and scare away incompetent tirekickers) with performance-based pay for all. For example, you can incentivize employees for achievements like keeping a new project on schedule. Just make sure that bonuses are based on metrics employees can control or you may be setting them up for failure (which is unlikely to make them feel appreciated).
2 Time for development.
Give your team time off during work for personal development such as learning a new skill, engaging in mentoring opportunities, speaking at conferences or volunteering. It may cost a few hours of productivity, but you’ll get that investment back when employees gain valuable skills and grow their professional networks.
3 Profit sharing.
When your team does well, your company does well, so why shouldn’t the reverse be true? Profit sharing is also a good way to ensure that people stick around for the long haul.
4 Meaningful work.
Lastly, providing your people with meaningful work is not only free; it’s also a more significant motivator than any carrot or stick. A 2015 Harvard Business Review article “Meaningful Work should be Every CEO’s Top Priority” identifies three specific types of meaning to consider:
- Meaningful work — how employees believe in and contribute to the mission of the organization;
- Meaningful connections — deep relationships with colleagues and clientele;
- Meaningful progress — feeling a sense of accomplishment.
Generous vacation leave, flex time, remote work and sabbaticals can help improve work-life balance for your team.