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"Always treat your employees exactly as you want them to treat your best customers.(Stephen R.Covey, authorof The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People)

Small businesses often lose their talent to large companies simply because they can’t afford the kinds of salaries and incentives on offer at a global corporate. Keeping staff happy is, however, critical for business success. Here are five employee incentives that really work to keep your staff happy, effective and engaged.

1. Allow flexible time
In the modern world nothing is as precious as time and employers should not underestimate what this would mean for employee motivation. In a recent study on the 4-day work week 89% of all respondents said they would make sacrifices
to work four days a week, and 54% said they would gladly work longer hours on the other four days. It costs nothing to offer employees the opportunity to set their own hours, and work when they are able. It also gives them the ability to look after families, run errands and still meet their work obligations – something larger companies may not be able to do.

2. Profit sharing
Profit sharing is a bonus incentive scheme that effectively only kicks in when the company is profitable. Better yet, it provides personal incentive to employees to make the company as profitable as possible. By offering employees an equal share in the profit sharing regardless of their position you also create a strong sense of teamwork and bond them in a united cause.

3. Public recognition
A big positive of working in a small company is being able to see and know each employee as an individual. Genuine recognition of achievements is therefore possible – did someone go above and beyond, or make a personal sacrifice
to make a deadline? Acknowledge it publicly, in front of everyone else. In a recent survey, 92% of all employees say they are likely to repeat an action if they are recognised for it. Simple acknowledgement can be motivation enough, but if this is backed up with a real reward, like paid time off or a monetary bonus it can become even more effective.

4. Make the office more fun
Small companies can introduce flexibility in office protocols as well as work hours. Think about how you can make things more relaxed in a genuine and helpful way. Consider providing a room where people can bring their children to do their homework after school pick up or allow employees to bring pets in on one day a week. Is South Africa playing a cricket test match? Put it on in the break room. Let people have a say in which coffee and tea are available and always remember birthdays with a thoughtful gift.

5. Points-based incentives
A points-based incentive program allows employees to gather points and ultimately redeem them for rewards. You could develop a book of rewards your employees will genuinely enjoy from small things like free lunch and gift cards to theatre tickets, holidays, spa treatments, and cell phones. These incentive programs offer two major benefits, firstly your employees get things they actually want instead of generic rewards creating more motivation and secondly, they allow you to closely tailor where, how and for what employees are rewarded. This means greater incentive can be given for things that move your business closer to its goals.

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