5 Ways to Really Motivate and Reward Your Small Business’s Employees

5 Ways to Really Motivate and Reward Your Small Business's Employees

Do you want engaged employees that help customers, take pride in your store and improve sales? It’s a rhetorical question. Everyone wants that, right?

How do you ensure that kind of behavior? It starts with hiring the right employee, but once employees are on board, you should make efforts to create a positive, rewarding work environment.

Businesses with employee recognition programs in place see a 60% increase in employee engagement. Why is employee engagement important? Customer retention rates are 18% higher when employees are engaged, organizations that have over 50% employee engagement retain 80% of their customers, and engaged employees are 38% more likely to have above average productivity.

Download our free retail customer loyalty success guide to learn how to drive customers back 2x more.

With that, here are five ways to motivate your employees to do their best and reward them in the process:

1. ‘Pass the buck’ contest

Want to encourage sales? Consider a Pass the Buck contest. Set a specific sales goal for employees in the morning. Let’s say the goal is to sell seasonal items that are on your discount rack. When an employee makes a sale, they’re given a $50 bill. When another employee sells a seasonal item, the $50 bill passes to that employee. The employee with the money at the end of a certain shift gets to keep it.

The contest works with a variety of goals. You can do this with gift card purchases, customer loyalty program enrollment or collecting email addresses at the register.

2. Reward random acts of kindness

Did an employee go above and beyond to help a customer? Do you have an employee that’s always willing to cover a shift when someone calls in sick? Whether they’re cleaning up the stock room without being asked or clearing snow from the walkways, when you see employees doing something that makes your life easier, reward them on the spot.

What should the reward be? Use the list below for inspiration.

3. Create a Kudos Board

Hang a bulletin board in the break room with a stack of small pieces of paper, and encourage your employees to post accomplishments of their coworkers on the board.

Managers might not see the small contributions that employees make each day, so this is a great way for peers to recognize other peers.

At the end of each month, the supervisor could pick one of the accomplishments to reward. (Aren’t sure what kind of reward to give the employee? Check out the list of ideas below.

4. Feedback competition

Collecting feedback from your customers can help your business make improvements that result in more sales. Create a small postcard survey that employees can give to customers after they checkout, or after they’ve finished a meal.

Each survey should have three quick questions that customers can answer. The last question should ask specifically about the service provided by the employee that handed the customer the survey.

This idea not only provides feedback about your business, but about your employees too.

At the end of the week, host a company wide meeting and share the positive comments made by customers.

You could reward the whole group with donuts or a company-wide BBQ, or you can reward specific employees that received great feedback.

5. Create an employee loyalty program

Your customers earn points for every purchase, so why not give your employees points for achieving various sales goals? Create a list of goals and corresponding points. For instance:

  • Up-selling a product or service: 5 points
  • Getting X number of customers a day to sign up for your loyalty program: 4 points
  • Receiving positive, unprompted feedback (customer tells manager): 3 points
  • Helping a customer find a specific product on the floor: 2 points
  • Making a sale of $75 or more: 1 point

Keep the program going for a week, or a month and let your employees claim prizes depending on the number of points earned. For instance:

  • 100 points: A full weekend off of their choice
  • 75 points:  1 free Saturday or Sunday off of their choice
  • 50 points: $40 gift card to a store of your choice
  • 25 points: Designated parking spot for a week
  • 10 points: Lottery tickets

Keep track of each employee’s progress on a wipe board in the back room.

List of possible rewards

Here’s a list of simple, yet effective rewards that can motivate employees:


  • $5 gift card to the local coffee/dessert shop
  • Movie tickets
  • Small bouquet of flowers
  • Lottery tickets
  • Candy bars
  • Free lunch with the boss
  • Public transit cards
  • Car wash and detailing

Schedule Choices

  • 1 free Saturday or Sunday off of their choice
  • Leave 30 minutes early on a day of their choice
  • Double lunch time for the week


  • Recognize the employee at the monthly staff meeting
  • Write a handwritten note
  • Leave a post-it on the employee’s computer
  • One-on-one meeting to say thanks
  • Company email letting everyone know what the employee did
  • Feature the employee in the company newsletter
  • Give employee the best parking spot
  • Give the option to work at home for a shift
  • Casual dress coupons

By recognizing your employees for their efforts – big and small – you’ll have a more engaged and productive workforce, which in turn help retain your customers more often. The ideas above are designed to spark inspiration in your store or office to provide simple yet effective ways to reward your employees for pushing your business forward.

Download our free retail customer loyalty success guide to learn how to drive customers back 2x more.

Lisa Furgison
About the Author
Lisa Furgison

Lisa is a writer at Fivestars, a freelance journalist, and co-owner of a media company, McEwen's Media.

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