Employees are the backbone of every company. They do the hard work to ensure that all client’s desires are met. These hard-working citizens ensure that the company reaches the goals they set. 

Small businesses can pay their respect and show their gratitude through incentive programs. These programs will allow the high performers in the business to feel appreciated and acknowledged for their hard work and time. Multiple options can suit any small business and any employee’s desires. 

Small businesses can create different programs according to the employees and the amount of capital usable to repay their hard-working employees. These incentives will leave all employees energized and motivated to work harder and smarter on projects and company goals.

What Does Employee Incentive Program Mean for Small Business?

Employee incentives are programs that reward, inspire, or motivate employees to achieve tasks, goals, or deadlines set by managers. These programs can be for a team or an individual. These incentives can be financial or non-financial programs, all reliant on the small business values and financial state. 

Small businesses should use these incentives not only to repay hard work but moreover to add value to their employee’s work life. These incentives will motivate the staff members by showing appreciation. These incentives can advance teamwork by showcasing benefits that the team will perceive if they achieve set goals. 

Why Are Employee Incentive Programs for Small Businesses?

There are numerous benefits connected to employee incentive programs other than solely reward based. Incentive programs create a healthy workplace culture which leaves staff members with a reason to accomplish goals other than their paycheck.

A positive workplace culture focuses on attracting and retaining employees. Excellent incentive programs ensure that a small business retains more employees. These programs ensure that personnel are rewarded for reaching goals and will provide them a space to be more engaging.

Creating a productive workforce is what every small business aims for. With incentive programs, companies can ensure productivity for all their personnel. Rewards will showcase that the business recognizes the hard work employees place in their tasks. This will create competition among staff to achieve goals with new excitement. The staff will find new and creative ways to be more productive.

How Do You Create an Incentive Program for Employees?

Creating the best incentive program for small businesses would depend on the company itself. The focus must be placed on the employees and what they need. A business must target their employee personalities and determine the incentives based on them. 

Companies can create incentive programs based on traveling, however, if the employees dislike traveling, these programs will not motivate or reward them. Companies can thus focus firstly on the employees and what they enjoy. Subsequently, companies can focus on goals and objectives, budgets, and other areas of incentive. 

Setting Goals and Objectives

Stating clear and measurable goals plays a key part in creating an incentive program. The small business must first decide on what the goals of the company are. Thereafter they can place focus on how to motivate and reward employees for obtaining and achieving these goals.

The small business can create goals that will force growth in the company yet are still achievable for the employee. Do not set goals that can not be achieved. This will demotivate the staff and they will end up doing the bare minimum or leaving for a better opportunity elsewhere.

Choosing the Right Incentives

Companies can spend some time finding the correct incentive to use for their employees. The main focus should be to reward the staff with a program that would benefit them. These incentives must trigger the employees to feel positive about work and prompt them to work on the goals ahead.

Not all incentives have to be cash incentives. Small businesses are not set up to hand out financial benefits in the first few years, thus, they can adapt to nonfinancial incentives. These employee incentives can lead to more productivity and positivity around the office. 

Here are some focus points to assist small businesses on how to set up the right incentives. Management can start by asking staff members about their ideal incentives. These incentives are for them, and by approaching these members, the company can set up the ideal incentive.

Another focus point is to ensure group and individual incentives. Group incentives will build group performance while only focusing on individuals, the team members can start competing within the team and ignore the rest of the members.

Using both financial and nonfinancial programs will add the most value to the company. This will allow for more regular incentives without costing the company. Businesses should also ensure that positive reinforcement is used. This will create positive competition and a workplace where all employees are happy to contribute.

Provide feedback once or twice a week on the incentives and standings of members. This will allow them to feel part of the incentive. These updates are not incentives themselves but rather a measuring tool for employees to recognize their standings and whether or not they need to work smarter.

Determining Eligibility Criteria

Determining the criteria plays a key role in the success of incentive programs. Companies must set clear and specific rules that individuals must follow to obtain the reward at hand. Criteria will take out foul play and individuals that crook their way up the ladder.

Companies can have a manager supervise on a regular basis to ensure that all the members achieve their goals fairly. The business needs to communicate clear guidelines to ensure that the team knows what to follow.

Establishing a Budget

Estimating and setting a budget will allow the company to create specific rewards. Not only will they set financial rewards, but small businesses can focus on spreading them throughout the year. They can ensure the motivation of the team members when their motivation is low the whole year round. 

Setting a budget will provide the company with a set of financial rewards. However, the business can now determine how many other non-financial rewards to using to keep the team’s positivity and hard work at peak performance. These nonfinancial rewards can be used to fill the spaces between the big financial rewards. 

Communication and Implementation

Communication is key when the company decides on rewards. The members must know all the necessary information about what the employee incentives are when they are rewarded as well as how to obtain them through their work. 

Companies need to ensure that all members know exactly what is expected and that foul play will not be tolerated. This will leave all employees on the same ground with no one having an advantage over others. The business must communicate why these incentives are in place to ensure guidelines and goals for all staff and groups.

Types of Employee Incentive Programs for Small Business

Various programs can be used to motivate and reward the team. Companies can make use of their options to reward employees based on their different achievements. These can be monetary incentives or non monetary employee incentives. 

Cash Bonuses

Cash bonus rewards are financial rewards to an employee based on a good performance. These rewards can occur occasionally or periodically based on the budget and the company monetary incentive program. 

Employees can receive cash bonuses for achieving goals set over a long period, or if a considerably large task or assignment is completed. These rewards are not regular and come around once twice a year.

Paid Time Off

This program rewards staff members with a specific amount of days off with compensation. Paid time off will allow employees to enjoy a holiday, and sick days or can be used for personal circumstances while still receiving their daily wages. 

These rewards can be used on a more regular basis due to the lack of financial weight it has. Companies can give star employees a few days off to ensure they return fresh, motivated, and well-rested to continue on bigger tasks. 

Gift Cards

Gift cards refer to an alternative reward to financial rewards. It is a card, with a specific amount of money, that can only be used at a specific store or store. These rewards are a great way to motivate the entire team due to the wide variety of options some stores have. 

There are many different types of gift cards, but all of them can be used for the entire team. Companies can use them to reward smaller tasks and goals that are accomplished.

gift card

Health and Wellness Benefits

Health and wellness benefits are one of the best rewards when companies focus on the well-being of their staff. These rewards can be to pay for an employee’s medical checkup or medical aid. Other forms of wellness rewards are gym reimbursements or wellness screenings.

These rewards will motivate the staff to stay healthy and fit, which will reduce their stress and enhance their focus. A health and wellness reward program will grow productivity and help with retaining more staff members. 

Recognition Programs

Rewarding an employee with a small gesture in front of other team members can do the trick sometimes. Employees want to feel seen and rewarded for all the blood sweat and tears they place in the company they work for. Recognition programs are a great tool to use.

 Companies can reward staff members in different ways, in front of their co-workers. This will allow the members to feel appreciated and recognized for their hard work. This is one of the easiest and cheapest rewards to provide for the employees because it only takes time and a small gesture.

Measuring the Effectiveness of Employee Incentive Programs for Small Business

Implementing an incentive program is an amazing start to giving back to the company employees. However, small businesses must calculate the success rate and effectiveness of the installed programs. 

This will lead them to continue with these programs because employees feel rewarded, or the company must adjust or change the program to ensure that employees are motivated and positive to achieve these rewards.

Employee Satisfaction and Retention

These employee recognition programs are created to ensure that the employees feel appreciated and cared for. If the company suffers from turnover staff the rewards and incentives are not of any success. The company must ensure that the staff is taken into consideration when deciding on a specific program of encouragement. 

Increased Productivity and Performance

Employees can find loopholes in the incentive programs, which means they can do the bare minimum to accomplish goals. Thus it falls on the company’s shoulders to ensure that the staff stays positive and productive while chasing the rewards. 

While some staff members thrive on the hand of competition, others would rather shy away from it. Managers can identify this early and ensure that other reward systems are in place for staff members that are determined to not compete. 

The main benefit of these rewards is to create higher productivity and performance, however, the company must ensure they focus on what the staff needs to create the ideal rewards system.

Return on Investment

Return on investment refers to the objective of the incentive program. Did the reward meet the objective of the incentive? The business owner can measure this by observing the goals met by the team. 

If all the goals are achieved before the deadline set, the investment was well placed, moreover, if the rewards were in place, yet none of the staff members tried to achieve them, the company must evaluate and change the reward to ensure a higher return of investment.

Check Out How to Create the Perfect Incentive Scheme!:

Common Mistakes to Avoid when Implementing Employee Incentive Programs for Small Business

Small business owners can improve the success rate of their incentive programs by eliminating the following mistakes. These mistakes can be fixed once they are identified, which will improve the programs and enhance their effectiveness.

Not Aligning Incentives with Business Objectives

A business owner first need to identify the main objectives of the business. Create clear values, goals, and direction for the business before setting an incentive program in place. Secondly, the owner must create incentives aligned with the business objective.

This means that if the company’s main goal is to increase sales, the incentives must be to reward the employee for successfully selling more products or services. These goals need to push the staff members and the company forward, all closer to the main business objectives.

Lack of transparency and Fairness

Fairness and transparency play a big part in the success of employee incentives. Once the reward is set, and the goal is reached the company must comply with its word. Rewarding an employee performance according to the original agreement. Do not vary on the agreement.

This will break the trust between the employee and the employer which can bear big consequences for the whole team. Companies must ensure that they keep the competition fair and that all employees have the same opportunity to achieve their goals. 

Inadequate Communication and Follow-up

Continue to follow up and remind employees of the rewards and incentives. Most small business owners mention the reward once and leave it at that. The continuous reminder will ensure that the team does not forget about the reward, and it will urge them to complete the tasks to obtain the ultimate goal. 

Employee Incentive Program Examples

Companies can use monetary and nonmonetary programs. Monetary programs are incentive examples such as bonuses, merit-based raises, profit-sharing, and gain-sharing plans. While nonmonetary program examples are; paid off days, vacation days, gift cards, and outside office services. 

Long-Term Incentive Plan Template

A long-term incentive is a reward that can only be rewarded based on time spent at a company or long-term appreciation and performance awards. These incentive plans can be used to ensure that the employees commit to the company for some time before moving on. 

Companies will award employees with business shares or profit sharing once the employee worked for a set amount of time, or achieved a goal that can only be reached by spending a specific amount of years at the business. These rewards are great for employee retention.


How Can Small Businesses Reward Employees?

Small business owners reward employees with incentive programs. These programs are either monetary or nonmonetary rewards based on achieving set goals or accomplishing objectives set by the business.

What is an Annual Incentive Plan?

An annual incentive plan is an incentive program that will be rewarded once a year. This is a short-term motivation strategy that rewards employees for achieving the yearly goals set by the company. 

Final Thoughts

Incentive programs can be of great benefit to small businesses. These programs can motivate staff members to work towards a goal set by the business. These incentive plans create a stable and positive work environment and enhance employee productivity by rewarding them with monetary or nonmonetary benefits.

Once a small business decides to use these incentive plans, the focus must be placed back on the employee. The company must ask themselves what type of reward the employees would like, and what would motivate them to accomplish the set goals.

These programs are of great benefit to the company and the quicker they adapt and use them, the better and faster the business will grow. 

Sabine Ghali

Kelly Murphy


Certified Meeting planner with 20+ years of event management experience, founder of ConferenceSource, expert in meeting facility sourcing & contracting in North America, Europe, South America and Asia. Kelly will manage your budget as if they were her own, negotiating the best possible rate and hotel contract to benefit and protect every client and exceed all expectations for all planning aspects for sales meetings, educational meetings, product launches, incentive trips down to a small board of directors meeting. We make meetings easy understanding your meeting objectives and delivering meeting matched components.