For the past two years, David Capece has offered his employees a generous and unique benefit: unlimited vacation days. The only condition? They stay ahead of all projects and provide excellent, timely work for all clients.
To date, the CEO of Sparxoo, a branding agency in Tampa, Fla., says morale is high, employee turnover is low and revenue has risen 33 percent since the program and other related policies were instituted. Not a single employee has abused the policy, Capece says.
Most owners understand happy employees are more productive, and more productive employees create a stronger, more profitable company—not to mention happier customers and clients. But it is not easy to discover what will motivate employees at your company and find creative ways to show appreciation for their work.
Recognition vs. reward
As you think about recognizing employees for their efforts, the first step is to understand the difference between recognition and reward, says Peter Hart, president and CEO of Rideau Recognition Solutions, which specializes in recognition and reward strategies.
“Recognition is an emotion an employee feels, and a reward is a tangible item they receive; they’re very different,” Hart says. “Just because you give an employee a gift doesn’t mean you’re recognizing them.”
Hart says too many small business owners and managers think material things are the key to employee motivation. That’s not the case, he says.
“One of the most effective forms of recognition is simply knowing and building relationships with your employees,” Hart adds.
Sincerity goes far
A simple, personalized “Thank You” can take you a long way with your employees, Hart says. Most people respond positively to small gestures such as compliments in front of peers or a handwritten card, he says, adding that both actions have little to no impact on your bottom line.
Another successful tactic is encouraging high-performing employees to pursue professional development.
“Consider covering the costs of a business or language course they’re interested in taking,” Hart says. “This helps the employee develop his or her professional skills but also benefits the company in the long run.”
Hart warns that recognizing and rewarding high-performing employees shouldn’t be one-off events. The process needs to be part of the work environment. Recognizing and rewarding high-performing employees can keep employees motivated, boost productivity and increase revenue.
Flexibility leads to productivity
Capece has found that respecting his employees’ time and need for flexibility has been the most effective motivational tool. Beyond unlimited vacation days, this flexibility extends to allowing employees to work from home and handle family situations at their convenience.
“We’re a creative agency, and there is a lot of teamwork and collaboration that require our work to be done in person,” he says. “But we also understand sometimes people can’t be here. We try to give back to our employees and think about their needs, as well.”
For example, one of his employees has a particularly long commute to the office, so Capece allows him to work from home as necessary. Another employee recently had to travel to Philadelphia for a funeral, so Capece encouraged him to work remotely for three weeks so he could spend time with family.
“Our company culture is attracting team members that are achievers,” he says. “Flexibility also helps with retention, as we have not had any team members quit in the past year. We believe that achievers are willing to work smart and work hard, and in return appreciate and even expect flexibility.”