How to Motivate Small-Business Employees

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Are you a small-business owner who is finding it more and more difficult to motivate your troops? offers five easy tips for kick-starting your crew without busting your budgets.

While large corporations with deep pockets can easily dangle bonuses, perks and an array of fancy reward programs (often created by outside consultants) to encourage employees to outperform, you company isn't quite there yet.

But small businesses with limited budgets do have a distinct advantage: It’s easier to show them you care. In many cases, employees will perform best for a boss who can accommodate their needs, whether that’s giving them an afternoon off to take care of a personal situation, re-arranging their work schedule so they can pick up kids from school, or allowing them to telecommute as needed.

Try these five tips:

1. Communicate your vision A boss at a small firm should explain the company’s missions and goals, preferably right when a new employee starts.

2. Acknowledge your limitations Admit it: You may not be able to provide the same opportunities for promotion that a large company can.

3. Involve workers in special projects Ask your employees to step away from their routine jobs and come up with creative solutions to customers’ problems.

4. Offer “add-ons” in addition to wages Younger people, in particular, have grown up hearing catch phrases like “work-life balance” and value benefits such as child-care programs, flexible schedules, and even wellness initiatives almost as much as competitive salaries.

5. Get creative with rewards One human resources manager has come up with an original rewards program called “Run to the Border” to encourage the office staff to exercise. Working under a $2,000 budget, she doles out gift certificates to restaurants and sporting-goods stores to employees who agree to work out for 30 minutes, five days a week. “You definitely do have better-performing employees if they are more active.”

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