Top employee motivation ideas for small businesses

Engagement & Motivation
August 30, 2019

Engaged and motivated employees help customers, take pride in your organization, and improve sales as a result. They are connected to your overall business goals, embody the culture you encourage and become excellent ambassadors for the future success of your company.

So, what makes an employee motivated and engaged? Hiring the right employees is a great start, but once you’ve got people working on your team you’ll need to make the right efforts to create a positive motivating environment for them to work in. To do this you have to understand what motivates employees, and what employee engagement really is.

Here are the top workplace motivators according to the Harvard Business Review

Role design

Every company is different, and there is no set formula for determining the appropriate design for your organization. Better designed roles help employers make the best use of top talent but also clarifies responsibilities to workers. Less confusion leads to higher performance.

Organizational identity

This is all about your company culture and business objectives. A full-time employee working 40 hours a week will spend about 30% of their waking hours at work. Who wants to spend that amount of time at a place that is tiresome, or worse, toxic?

Career ladders

We’re not surprised that opportunities for advancement made it so high on the list. As noted previously, why would an employee want to spend so much time at a job that had no opportunity for promotion?


Even without redesigning business processes, managers can help the overall motivation of their employees by encouraging better peer-to-peer, and manager-to-employee relationships.  Building trust amongst employees, providing opportunities for feedback, explaining the “why” behind the work of employees, are all ways in which community can grow.

When these top workplace motivators are working together, you’re much more likely to have a highly engaged and performant workforce.

According to a Gallup study, the businesses with engaged employees were 17% more productive and 21% more profitable than the businesses in the study with disengaged employees.

How recognition can further turbo-charge employee engagement

In a recent survey conducted by Interac and their 1000+ employees, it was discovered that their number one complaint, regarding motivation, came down to a lack of appreciation from their managers. Not the job, or the hours they worked, not even the pay that they received for their performance, but the simple lack of recognition for a job well done discouraged them from doing their best work. The same study goes on to show that when managers recognized employees’ contributions, their engagement level increases by 60%.

Employee recognition programs have forever been on the radar of large corporations as a tool to foster employee engagement, but what about small businesses? Can they benefit from recognition programs and encourage motivation and engagement to increase productivity and profitability as well?

Of course, they can!

Here are 3 way in which a small business can use recognition to motivate and engage their workforce

Character Awards

My son’s school uses monthly character awards to reward children who embody character traits of value in the school’s code of conduct. Small businesses can adopt this concept by choosing character traits that promote behaviors that foster a better company culture. This is similar to the Employee of the Month concept, but goes one step further. Not only will you encourage better behavior through recognition of positive behavioral traits, but if you include a peer voting system you could promote better business relationships as well.  Taking the opportunity to reinforce your company’s core values by tying a monthly recognition award is a win-win for everybody.


This concept sounds way more complicated than it is. Gamification of business processes, specifically routine tasks, can help motivate through friendly competition and boost the idea of community amongst your employees. Think of this as a real-life game where people receive rewards for hitting milestones. The milestones people achieve, as well as the rewards themselves, can be anything you want. Consider awarding badges (buttons, metals, stickers) for hitting sales quotas that employees can turn in at the end of the month for a prize! Or award trophies to top performers at the end of each week who are recognized at a luncheon or ceremony at the end of the month. The sky’s the limit here, but understanding the core motivators above can help you design games that will not only motivate and engage but also encourage performance.

Express Gratitude

A simple thank you can go a long way to motivating people to do their best work. When we focusing on “why” in gratitude we can also help connect employees’ achievements to the overall organizational success. For example, after a good sales month, a company may host a gratitude meeting where management, not only thanks the workforce for their job well done, but includes the reason why they are thankful. It’s possible that by increasing sales that month they were able to meet a higher objective, or expand opportunities. By expressing gratitude to the employees, and linking their achievement to the goals achieved, it allows the employees to understand the value that their performance brought to the company as a whole. Everybody wants to feel that what they are doing offers value. Gratitude is the quickest, and simplest way to show that.

In conclusion

When you understand how to motivate your employees and the reasons why recognition is so important for better employee engagement you have the tools necessary to make real decisions on the design of your rewards and recognition programs moving forward. Use these ideas provided, or come up with your own! Rewards and recognition are as unique as your business is, and the people in it.

Let us help you promote a culture of thank you, a culture of appreciation, and encourage company success through gamification with our recognition software.  Motivate your team to perform with Qarrot. Book your demo today.
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