Six Ways to Reward Employees When Cash is Tight.

As small businesses have struggled to survive during the recession, it has been difficult to reward employees with raises and/or bonuses.  In fact, many small firms found it necessary to cut employee salaries, perks and benefits in order to survive financially.   As we approach the end of 2010, the picture doesn’t appear to be appear to be getting any better.  Only a small percentage of small businesses say they’ll be offering salary increases this year.  And those who do, plan for the increases to be very small.

So how can you reward employees for outstanding performance without breaking the bank?   Here are some ideas that can help you reward and motivate your team without breaking the bank.

Cash vs. Recognition:  Research has confirmed that many employees are motivated as much, if not more, by recognition as they are by cash.  Personally, I know people who make a good salary and regularly qualify for bonuses, but they are miserable in their jobs.  On the other had, I also know talented individuals who work for less money than they might earn somewhere else because they enjoy their work environment and feel as though they are recognized for their contributions.  As a result, they are loyal and committed to the companies with which they work.

Reward Throughout the Year:  A lot of companies fall into the pattern of rewarding employees once a year — usually in conjunction with a performance review. A better approach is to reward your team sincerely, and freely throughout the year.  That helps motivate your team and keep them energized.

Make it Public.  Don’t recognize employees behind closed doors.  Do it publicly.  Everyone enjoys  being acknowledged for their efforts in front of their peers.

Give the Gift of Time.  As the grandmother of four step-grandchildren, I can tell you the gift of time is as appreciated as expensive presents.  The same is true with employees.  Give a high-performing employee an extra day off or allow him or her to work a flexible schedule.  You may want to consider offering the employee an opportunity to tele-commute for all or part of the work week.

Be Spontaneous:  Rewards and recognitions don’t have to be dolled out at specific times.  Be spontaneous and fun.  And don’t do the same thing all the time.  Shake things up.  For example, bring a massage therapist into the office as a special reward or have an outstanding employee’s car washed on site.

A Small Thank You.  Small gifts bring big smiles as a thank you for a job well done.  A gift card to a favorite restaurant or spa could be a nice treat.  Tickets to a sporting event or theater performance are also a nice way to say thank you. Remember, you can get discounted certificates on many websites so you don’t have to pay full price.

Most employees understand the current economic climate and will appreciate your creative efforts to recognize their contributions.