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How employee incentives can keep your business healthy

There’s a direct link between staff happiness and productivity; that’s why it’s important to create a healthy work environment through employee incentives.

Your staff are vital to the success of your business. According to a study in 2016 conducted by Global Corporate Challenge (GCC), happy staff are high-performing staff. They’re more productive and they’re more likely to stay working for you.

Despite this, many people are unhappy at work. Fewer than one in three employees in the United States (US) are engaged, according to 2015 Gallup study. Gallup’s research also shows that "employee engagement is strongly connected to business outcomes essential to an organisation's financial success, such as productivity, profitability and customer engagement."

If you’re not getting the best out of your people, you won’t be getting the best out of your business. The good news is that there are many ways a business can incentivise and engage staff, and you don’t need Google’s budget to do it.


Recognise and reward hard work


People like to feel that their efforts are acknowledged and appreciated. Financial compensation is part of this: studies show that employees work harder after being paid a bonus. But recognition is also important. Another Gallup study found that employees receiving regular praise were more productive, more engaged and more likely to stay with their organisation.

In The Carrot Principle study, researchers found that when managers were effective at recognising their employees' hard work, they had lower turnover rates, better results and were stronger in goal-setting, communication, trust and accountability.

What you can do: Ensure staff are thanked for their efforts and give regular feedback.


Make staff feel valued and valuable


Employees are happier when they feel they are doing worthwhile work and making meaningful progress. Any job involves a number of routine tasks, which can be just as critical as higher level duties. Helping people find meaning and purpose in their work can reduce absenteeism by 60 per cent and staff turnover by 75 per cent, according to a study by the University of Alberta in 2008.

Great employees will also want to take ownership of their work. Giving people more responsibility is an easy way to demonstrate trust.

What you can do: Give staff more responsibility, while encouraging and enabling their career development.


Ensure work-life balance


Many workers around the world believe it’s getting harder to manage their work-life balance. The ensuing stress often results in lower productivity and higher absenteeism.

Flexible work is one answer to this. Almost half of the Australian employees surveyed by Michael Page said that flexibility is the thing they desire most at work, while it remains a top priority for workers globally. Fortune 100 companies saw productivity gains as high as 60 per cent after moving to a flexible work model.

What you can do: Encourage flexible working where possible and enable mobility.


Create a supportive team atmosphere


Entrepreneur Richard Branson says he prioritised making employees feel part of a "family". He believes that "Colleagues should take care of each other, have fun, celebrate success, learn by failure, look for reasons to praise not to criticise, communicate freely and respect each other."

To create this kind of supportive culture, you need to lead from the top. People’s 'inner work life' affects their happiness and productivity, and how managers treat them is key to this. The personal touch can go a long way; just remembering and celebrating birthdays can make a difference.

What you can do: Build a culture of kindness and respect. Be vigilant for any conflict or workplace bullying.


Be creative with staff incentives


As a smaller business, you have less resources to call on. You probably can’t install your own gym, but you could negotiate free or discounted membership with a local fitness centre. Healthcare and gym memberships rank among the top benefits that Australian employees are seeking, and can be a good way to introduce reward and recognition programs.

Even small touches, such as office plants, can lift morale. A study by the University of Queensland found plants made employees happier and could increase productivity by 15 per cent.

What you can do: Consider a wellbeing program and invest in an attractive, healthy workplace.

Good staff are valuable and hard to find, so when you manage to recruit great people you’ll want to do all you can to keep them. Losing staff can be disastrous:

  • It’s expensive, difficult and time-consuming to re-hire.
  • Departing staff may go to a competitor.
  • Staff morale drops when valued colleagues leave.


Avoid these issues by leading from the top and creating a culture that people enjoy working in. You'll soon find that you're not only managing happier staff, but a more successful business as well.