Being a good manager is a complex job, knowing how to balance the need to chase and meet targets for your boss while keeping a team happy, motivated and productive is something that takes effort and skill. The best managers understand what makes their people tick, what rewards work with which individuals and, crucially, when to use them.
One thing is for sure, one size does not fit all. You need a range tactics in your bag of tricks, each one suitable for specific situations. Money of course is the go-to option but if you’re savvy it’s a card you won’t have to rely on. It might not even be an option if you’re grappling with disappointing results or unhealthy projections.
So how do you keep your employees engaged and content without just buying their loyalty with a bonus? Here are eight top alternatives.
1. Additional paid leave
Knowing that their hard work will give them more time off or more flexible working is something that will motivate a wide range of employees. It’s a tangible benefit for many people and a good motivator for those who obviously value the other areas of their life outside work. For some it might be the prospect of a few more days with the family at Christmas, for others the chance to create more long weekends. Maybe some would prefer longer lie-ins and work later in the day. Whatever the system you use, formal or informal, it’s a way of building a sense of ownership, a certain amount of autonomy which can have a really positive effect on commitment to the job.
2. Give credit where it’s due
Perhaps one of the most underrated ways of incentivising staff is to simply let them know how much they and the work they do or even the way they work is recognised and valued by you and the company. While the yearly bonus can of course reflect this, calling out their hard work in meetings, noting it in emails they’re copied in on, and publicly relating group success to key individuals are all really valuable tools for a good manager. Even a casual “well done” in passing can give employees a real sense of achievement. What’s more, it can reinforce good behaviours that can be copied by other members of the team and really boost overall productivity and help foster a positive and friendly working atmosphere.
3. Give them a personal project
Giving your most successful employees the chance to devise and manage their own project is a great way of recognising success publicly, fostering personal growth and increasing engagement. You can be sure they’ll put their all into something that they created themselves and this is a sure-fire way to get the very best out of them. Alternatively, they could be offered the chance to trade tasks with a colleague if there is other work they would like to try doing at the company.
4. A one-off treat
Here’s where you can be creative. If there’s a team you think deserves rewarding, then recognise them collectively. You could pay for them to have a Friday night out together or go on a team building exercise. Events can be an effective way of building a greater sense of togetherness in a company and the prospect of spending time with colleagues outside of work help some employees improve difficult relationships.
5. Equity based schemes
These sorts of incentives can lay the foundation of success for a young business. By rewarding key staff members with the opportunity to align their financial interests with those of the business, you can secure their long-term commitment to the cause while making the employee feel both important and valued and giving them a tangible return for all their efforts.
6. Company subsidies
This an option that works on many levels - it can be for your whole workforce, or it can be something you can use to help a specific individual. If an employee’s travel costs become prohibitively high then travel loans can be a welcome support. Whether you offer subsidised travel or gym membership, you can give your employees financial benefits at a fraction of the cost of a formal bonus.
7. Employee of the month
The opportunity to be publicly recognised for one’s achievements can be very attractive to many. By showcasing their success, you highlight the qualities you feel are most important to the company, promote a sense of reward and achievement and show that the EotM deserves respect.
8. Make work fun
This is a long-term tactic that is one of the hardest to create. Companies are different, offices are different. Tactics like Cake Friday might bomb in another office, while a funny quotes file could be seen by some as a licence to ridicule those prone to the odd spoonerism. There are lots of things you can do, but the best advice is to let this evolve. You can’t impose fun and can’t make people take part in things that make them feel uncomfortable so instead make the work environment one where people can be themselves and get behind the things that bring a smile to everyone’s face and watch as staff churn falls, productivity rises and your team become the place everyone wants to join.