7 Cool Ways to Inspire Your Staff

When you are coming up with employee rewards and incentives, paying more does not necessarily mean that something will work more effectively. From a star sticker chart to leaving a quick note at an employee’s desk thanking them for their hard work, employees appreciate being appreciated. But the trick is to give them what they want, not what you think is cool. And you may be surprised by what works. Here are some ideas managers and HR experts have seen get results in the trenches.

Keep it simple

“We’ve had good luck with simple things,” says Keith Jennings, an Arizona-based HR specialist at Insperity.  “Try doing small things like celebrating birthdays or weddings and anniversaries. It can even be a monthly celebration. Instead of the crack-the-whip type management, employees see that management does care.”

Or even simpler

Another simple idea from Jennings is to just post a note on the employee’s desk while he or she isn’t there.

“A lot of employees just need recognition,” he says.

Dream Catch

At Los Angeles-based ad agency Ignited, the company conducts a “Dream Catch” program. Employees can contribute up to $50 per paycheck toward the trip of their dreams. After three years, the company matches what employees have saved and gives them an extra two weeks off to take the trip. The only requirement is that employees have to give a presentation to the agency on what they learned on their trip.


Trust can go a long way toward bringing your employees the rewards they’ll treasure.”A manager asked me early in my career to handle his largest account,” says Leigh Steere, co-founder of Managing People Better LLC. “He said, ‘I trust that you will ask questions, instead of guessing, if you run into something you don’t understand. I trust that you will come to me without delay if you encounter any problems.’ Often, young people and folks who are newer in their roles are not invited to take part in the beefier work. His show of trust made me want to give 200 percent to my job and he gave me the opportunity to learn and grow rapidly.”


At Lingo24, a global translation and multilingual Internet marketing firm, there is an initiative called “Space.” It allows workers to share and learn skills around the company, and not only up the ladder, but laterally. When employees meet their targets, they are given Space days — one to four per month — and they get to use those days to work on projects with another department. For example, an account manager may want to work with marketing to develop his writing skills, or a project manager may want to work with IT to better her desktop publishing skills.

Give them what they want

The best reward you can give an employee is something they want, says Lynda Zugec, managing director at The Workforce Consultants.

“Cool rewards and motivators can include an extra day to work remotely for the new mom, a nice lunch for an employee who rarely gets out, binoculars for the avid bird watcher, time to attend extra religious services for the devout and chocolate for the chocoholic,” says Zugec.

Stars for the stars

“As a long-time manager in the food service industry, I have tried an endless number of things to motivate my employees and have found great success in a few ideas,” says Jenna Hilb, regional operations manager in Denver at Quiznos. “I saw the greatest success with one in which I set sales goals for each shift. Any employee who achieved the goal that day would earn a ‘star’ sticker on our big board in the back. I created a prize catalogue with a number of different items that could be ‘purchased’ with these stars, such as a magazine subscription, a gift card, or even a digital camera. My employees were given the opportunity to choose their own incentives.”

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