Imagine this: your employees shuffle in late, grab some coffee and spend the morning gazing out the window. After a day of lackluster performance, they cut out early, leaving you alone with a pile of work. If this sounds like a typical day at your small business, instituting a system of rewards might excite and motivate your workforce to do better.

Identify the Problem

First, find out why your employees are so unhappy. Perhaps their tasks are too easy or too monotonous, just mindless chores they must slog through to get to their paychecks. Or maybe the work is challenging enough, but no one recognizes their contributions. For each source of dissatisfaction, set up a reward that corrects the issue. For example, combat workplace monotony by allowing bored employees to switch to a more interesting task once they complete a certain amount of work. To show workers their individual efforts are important to you, a simple handshake and thanks might be enough, but a small bonus is even better.

Group Performance

Rewards can motivate employees to work more closely, encouraging them to cooperate to reach whatever project goals you set. For example, announcing a prize for meeting a deadline or hitting a sales goal gives your team something positive to focus on. If the prize is attractive enough, your employees will find new ways to increase efficiency and productivity. A reward also acts as a finish line, giving a successful team a sense of satisfaction at "having scored."

Individual Performance

The team is the basic unit of most businesses, so it makes sense to reward group performance. But it’s equally important to recognize and reward individual achievement, or employees will feel their personal efforts are meaningless. For example, if a manager rewards one team out of several for reaching production goals, the productive individuals on the losing teams will not receive a reward, despite their personal excellence. An effective rewards strategy motivates employees on both the group and individual levels, aligning your employees’ self-interest with your organizational goals.

Measuring Impact

No single approach to rewards will work for every business or for every set of workers you employ. Periodically analyze your rewards system to make sure it’s still motivating your employees, fine-tuning as necessary to compensate for changes, such as new hires and harder projects. Survey your employees, if necessary, to get some feedback on how you can tweak your rewards program to better suit the needs of your current workforce.