The benefits of operating a small business include a manageable work force and a collaborative work arrangement by virtue of the often-cohesive, close-knit relationships that form among employees who work for a small business. Consequently, your human resources department incentives and goals are likely to be less complex than those of a large organization with several layers of hierarchy.

Meet with the human resources (HR) staff if your company has a dedicated HR department. Otherwise, this discussion should occur between the HR leader and the company owner or founder. Outline what you agree are reasonable goals for improving the impact that HR has on the organization and rewarding employees in HR who contribute to those improvements.

Evaluate the HR department staff qualifications and skills to determine their capabilities. Incentives shouldn't be for such lofty goals that they're unattainable, so base incentives on challenging work, not unrealistic expectations. For example, if your company could benefit from a compensation survey, assign the project to an HR staff member who has basic knowledge of compensation practices and who would appreciate learning more about pay structure and benefits. Give project guidelines, or parameters, for, say, a compensation survey of pay scales for local businesses, instead of a statewide survey that might be too much of a challenge.

Create goals that truly benefit the HR department and the organization. Needless projects are simply busy work, but meaningful projects that can improve HR effectiveness and efficiency are great for providing incentives to HR employees.

Mix HR department goals so that individual employees and work teams can take ownership of their respective projects. Refrain from micromanaging employees or teams throughout the course of their HR projects, but provide guidance and counsel as needed. Set a schedule for progress reports for projects that take more than two to three months or so to complete.

Determine appropriate incentives for individual achievements and team accomplishments. Incentives should be a combination of recognition and reward, that is, nonmonetary and monetary appreciation, respectively. Nonmonetary recognition could be publicly announcing the launch of a new HR service attributed to the employee who completed the pilot project. For example, a benefits specialist who organizes a wellness program would be credited with successfully designing a program that improves the health and well-being of employees. A monetary reward might be a percentage of the employee's salary or a lump sum distributed evenly among team members.

Include assessments of employees' goals during annual performance evaluations and encourage employees to participate in establishing further goals for their own professional development and goals that are aligned with the organization's strategic direction.