Do good work together

Keep employees motivated by recognizing good work and creating a positive work culture.

Let’s talk about employee incentives for your green industry business. Even if you think you have the perfect strategy in place to keep your best employees, think again.

Whether or not the state you are in is above or below the national unemployment average, it is challenging to attract and keep your brightest employees.

Top hiring consultants recommend that having a well-structured strategy to keep your best employees and attract other top-notch candidates is critical to the future success of your small enterprise.

Aside from paying good wages and fair benefits, there are a number of other ingredients that will help to create a culture that provides your company with top notch employees.

Think you can

In my work with my green industry business clients, I have discovered the biggest obstacle to creating the kind of incentives to keep the best people are the cultural paradigms the business owner currently possesses. In other words, what holds business leaders back is not what they think they can do to create the right kind of environment, but rather, what they think they can’t do.

If a business owner thinks that certain proven employee incentive strategies are just not something they feel comfortable using, chances are they will never be implemented. However, when the principal of the enterprise can take a step back and look at the situation with fresh eyes and be open and committed to trying a different approach, they are on their way to creating an innovative and powerful employee attraction and retention strategy.

Bob Nelson, author of 1001 Ways to Reward Employees, says, “While money is important to employees, what tends to motivate them to perform and to perform at higher levels is the thoughtful, personal kind of recognition that signifies true appreciation for a job well done.”

Here are a few options that Nelson suggests.

  1. “If you can’t promise a promotion or advancement for your high achievers, try creating special assignments for them that provide psychological income.” Challenge their creativity and mindset of going the extra mile to tackle problems your company is facing. The key is to engage their talents and skill sets and give them an opportunity to shine.
  2. Offer them the role of leader in delivering employee training or new employee orientation programs. This activity can give your top employees the opportunity to shine in front of not only their peers but their new team members.
  3. Send your high achievers to advanced training classes or sign them up for webinar classes that will take their skill sets to the next level. Like the saying goes, “When you’re green you grow and when you’re ripe you rot.”

Research shows that one of the top reasons why people will leave a company is because they feel they have become stagnant in their job. Most people want to work at something they find exciting and rewarding. When they work in an environment where they are continually challenged and have the opportunity to learn new skills to solve those problems, they blossom.

Most people want to work at something they find exciting and rewarding.

Mel Kleiman, president of Humetrics Inc., suggests that “one way to build a culture for retaining the brightest and most productive employees is to give people the freedom to make mistakes.” How do you and your management team react to the mistakes that are made by your employees? If you punish or ridicule them for their errors, you are not building the kind of allegiance you need to keep the best employees. Kleiman says, “The best small business owners create the kind of environment where errors are used as learning and development opportunities for individuals and the entire organization.”

Better practices

Let’s look at two more ways you can put together the right formula of incentives that attract and retain the best employees for your company.

Kleiman suggests that you “thin the herd of ‘sacred cows.’” In other words, this is the mindset of “how we do things around here.” He goes on to say that, “Yes, some of the specific practices at one point may have contributed to your small business success, but they may be inhibiting fresh, new ideas and limiting your success in the future.” By eliminating some of these outdated and nonproductive practices, you are building a structure for a better place to work.

Another area that is critical to creating the kind of incentives that attract and keep the best team members is to create a fun and positive atmosphere. Over the years in the work I have done with my clients, I have personally observed the companies that were fun to work at along with a caring and supportive environment were the most successful and profitable.

I remember when I began working at one of my first companies, the environment was upbeat and fun and we all laughed a lot. The owner used humor, it was extremely enjoyable to work there and I loved it. As the years passed, the owner become more and more cynical and began to lead the company with a fear-based mentality. At our regular meetings I could tell the fun and laughter had left the organization. One by one, team members left to work elsewhere. Before long I too left. It was a sad ending to such a happy beginning.

Whether you create an atmosphere of fun, positivity and laughter by holding potluck dinners, renting a bus to go to a ball game, having a barbecue, getting everyone to dress up in costumes on Halloween or just going over to the neighborhood tavern, utilize the power of creating a fun place to work. It will pay huge dividends.

There you have it, some of the best ideas to create affordable employee incentives that will help keep your best employees happy and your business profitable. The time is right to stop talking and start doing.

Tom Borg is a business consultant who works at the intersection of leadership, communication and culture. As a thought leader, he works with his green industry clients and their leadership teams to help them connect, communicate and work together better without all the drama. To ask him a question please call 734.404.5909, email him or visit his website at

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