5 Employee Incentives on a small budget

Hint: It's the little things that count

Diane manages a small nursery and landscaping business in Reading, Pa. She has 20 employees and provides healthcare and a retirement plan for her 10 full-time staff. Her part-time staff earn well above minimum wage.

The family business has been around for nearly 40 years, and in good years it turns a nice profit. Yet, even then, like so many other small businesses in America, Diane must find ways to pinch her pennies.

Many small business owners worry about keeping costs down without compromising productivity. Small businesses are often looking for inexpensive ways to provide employee incentives that keep their workforce content and focused on the job.

Diane knows that managing her most important asset—the talented people that work for her—is key to success. Not only is keeping her staff happy important to her, she knows that an unhappy staff can hurt a business’ reputation and drive customers away.

Since many small businesses simply do not have the means to spend extra cash on employee incentives, owners and managers can utilize these practical alternatives to show their employees how much they are appreciated:

1) Buy the staff a cup of coffee. Hosting weekly or monthly in-office coffee breaks, perhaps offering muffins or bagels as a side, builds staff camaraderie.

2) Let employees telecommute. Studies on workplace productivity have shown that allowing employees to work from home at least one day a week increases productivity, creativity and dedication to their company.

3) Hold a drawing and give out gift cards during staff meetings. This is a simple and fun way to make a typically dull event exciting.

4) Host events that keep staff morale high. For example, during the summer months, consider a company picnic for employees and their families. During the holidays, deck the halls and have a Christmas party.

5) Casual Fridays. Casual Friday and other dress down days have been around for a while, but their effectiveness has stood the test of time. A day off from professional business attire relaxes employees and has shown to increase productivity.

Keeping morale high and building a sense of belonging among employees not only creates a positive work environment, it can mean the difference between the success and failure of a business. Or as Diane points out: “We cannot forget that our greatest asset is the motivation of the people we work alongside.”