Move Beyond Bonuses: Create Incentives That Deliver

Debates for and against bonuses are rife in HR circles, with proponents and opponents giving a raft of issues for and against. But for modern HR practitioners, the debate needs to evolve beyond simply a question of how bonuses should be served, to a greater ideal of what a bonus really is and should be.

Smaller companies may not have the luxury of offering cash-rich bonuses, but they do have a range of perks and other effective ways to give “bonuses” and compete for talent.

Here are three ways you can incentivize your employees without having to throw bags of cash at them:

1. Give autonomy

money bags

This will only get you so far. Flickr/coda

Motivating employees is a hard nut to crack. Many small businesses feel they’ve done it all, yet employees still leave. For next-generation HR practitioners, employee autonomy is the highest echelon of employee motivation.

Everyone wants to know what they’re doing and feel like they’re capable of doing it well. Employers need to create the type of environment that gives employees the freedom to do their work quickly and in their own way.

To cut micromanagement and unnecessary supervision, create recognition programs that enshrine the individual responsibilities of each employee. When the program succeeds, make sure you help it percolate to every department and managerial accountability.

2. Help your employees master their profession

Boost your team’s skill sets, value, and self image by offering training programs that allow them to refine and gain mastery of their work. Effort can only boost productivity when it is supported by skills.

Training workshops, task rotation, and self-improvement subsidies will help to boost knowledge transfer in your company, in a way that your team finds enriching and engaging. Motivated employees should feel that their employment is constantly improving their skills, general knowledge, and life experience.

What’s more, introducing non-linear training classes for things like cooking and origami helps add value to your employee’s lives, increases motivation, and boosts loyalty towards the company.

3. Provide a reason to be there

Motivation is often mistakenly restricted to monetary rewards. This is perhaps the biggest misconception that many small companies have bought into, which prevents them from going out and winning top talent.

Performance incentives are more complex than a biweekly or monthly cash exchange. Employees are looking for a higher purpose and vision. It’s management’s job to ensure that corporate values and vision are well understood and supported by employees.

Think about the human or social reasons you’re in business: Is it to make people’s lives easier? Is it to solve a social problem? Is it to create an enjoyable experience? Employees who feel that a company’s only motivation is to boost the bottom line are more difficult to retain.

People will invariably tie their life purpose to their work experience. Good managers will ensure that these are complementary, not antithetical.

These three simple methods have been tried and tested by countless businesses who win top talent without having the budget to offer kingly bonuses. Implement them effectively, and you’ll hear bonus clamoring drop, and productivity soar.


Unleash your workforce with engaging software that promotes autonomy and purpose. See what TribeHR can do for you.


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