Staff incentives your employees really want these holidays

in Managing by Nick Petrovic
(5 Ratings)

A recent news story in Perth’s Sunday Times reports young entrepreneurs are meeting the challenges of today’s competitive employment market by starting their own small businesses.

According to an ABS report, there are nearly 360,000 business operators under the age of 34 in Australia, up from 319,500 five years ago.

The article attributes the rise in young small business operators not only to the lack of stability in traditional full-time jobs, but also the desire by some entrepreneurs to express themselves creatively.

Case study examples include Perth interior decorator Lauren Hack and café owner Paul Reid as representative of this emerging group of self-starters.

To ready to the full story, read Katie Robertson’s Youth & Co work it out, Sunday Times, Perth (17 November, 2013).

To learn more about how you can support local business, visit

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This article represents the views of the author only and not those of American Express.

It's that time of year again, and for many business owners the task of finding meaningful and effective staff incentives can be a difficult one. Some owners may find themselves with a reduced budget while others may simply be wondering if holiday bonuses are really that effective. Whatever the case, there are a few things to consider before deciding to play Santa to your employees this year.

Gifts vs. cash

While cash may seem the obvious choice, it is not always the most effective gift in the workplace. Not only can a cash gift seem less meaningful (especially if you are not able to give large amounts), it can also be quite forgettable for an employee. If you do decide to go with a monetary gift, consider pairing it with a meaningful thank you card to increase the emotional value of the gift.

Making it meaningful

There really is no one-size-fits-all incentive, so it pays to get to know your staff throughout the year, making note of the things that really matter to them. Get to know a bit about their personal and professional goals, their interests and even their hobbies.

Consider future expectations

Let's say you've had a strong year and you find yourself able to splurge a little more on staff incentives. Keep in mind that incentives given this year will impact on staff expectations for the future. If you are able to spend a little extra, you might want to consider spacing out incentives over the year rather than giving them all in one hit.

Keeping it simple

Rewarding your staff during the holiday period does not have to be an elaborate process. Even simple perks such as stocking up on their favourite snacks over the holiday period can show them you appreciate them. Some business owners like to keep the office atmosphere fun and festive over the holiday season so that any staff members who are working at this time feel valued for their contribution.

Recognition visits

This time of year can be a great time for managers or executives, who don't often have the chance to meet with their staff, to make recognition visits and commend their team on their efforts. Giving your time and guidance can be a great motivator for employees, so you may want to consider mentoring them as a way of allowing them to enhance their professional skills.

Development opportunities

Another great staff incentive can be an investment in their development and training. Again, it is vital that you have a good understanding of what drives each individual before organising training opportunities for them. This kind of incentive also brings the added bonus that any improvement in staff abilities will also benefit the business.

Office improvements

Considering how much time your employees spend at work, the holiday period can be a great time to revamp the office. New furniture or equipment will make the working environment more enjoyable for all. It will not only benefit your team during the holiday, but will give long-term improvements that everyone can enjoy.

The gift of time

Whether an employee is making a large salary or a small one, it seems there is one thing we are all increasingly lacking - time. Giving your staff members a day off from work can be another great way to reward them.

At the end of the day, the ultimate goal of any holiday incentive is to recognise efforts and motivate performance. So whether you decide to give cash bonuses or a meaningful gift, remember to always make the connection between incentive and recognition. When a bonus becomes expected or standard, it loses its meaning and does little to motivate performance. Remember also that while holiday incentives can give your staff a boost in morale, it is vital that you continue to recognise your staff throughout the year to ensure their performance is consistently high.

This article represents the views of the author only and not those of American Express.

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Nick Petrovic

Nick Petrovic is a registered psychologist and head of clinic at the Mind Profile Psychology Clinic and has more than 10 years' experience in the allied health and business. Nick has contributed to regular columns in more than a dozen business magazines and newspapers, advising on issues such as mental health, work related stress, strategic planning, business analysis and human resources.

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