Let’s talk about employee incentives for your green industry business. Even if you think you have the perfect strategy in place to keep your best employees, think again.

At the time of this writing, unemployment in Michigan is 4.5%. That is below the national average of 5%. That means that it is more difficult for business owners in this state to find top-quality employees. Whether or not the state you are in is above or below the national unemployment average, it is challenging to attract and keep your brightest employees. Top hiring consultants recommend having a well-structured strategy to keep your best employees and attract other top notch candidates; it’s critical to the future success of your small enterprise.

Aside from paying good wages and fair benefits, there are a number of other ingredients that will help to create a culture that provides your company with top notch employees.

In my work with my green industry business clients, I have discovered the biggest obstacle to creating the kind of incentives that will keep the best people is the cultural paradigms that the business owner currently possesses. In other words, what holds business leaders back is not what they think they can do to create the right kind of environment, but rather, what they think they can’t do.

If a business owner thinks that certain proven employee incentive strategies are just not something he or she feels comfortable using, chances are, they will never be implemented. However, when the principal of the enterprise can take a step back and look at the situation with fresh eyes, and be open and committed to trying a different approach, he or she is on the way to creating an innovative and powerful employee attraction and retention strategy.

Bob Nelson, author of the book 1001 Ways to Reward Employees, says, “While money is important to employees, what tends to motivate them to perform and to perform at higher levels is the thoughtful, personal kind of recognition that signifies true appreciation for a job well done.”

Here are a few that Nelson suggests:

1. “If you can’t promise a promotion or advancement for your high achievers, try creating special assignments for them that provide psychological income.” Challenge their creativity and encourage them to go the extra mile to tackle problems your company is facing. The key is to engage their talents and skill sets and give them opportunities to shine.

2. Another suggestion Nelson has is to offer them leadership roles in delivering employee training or new employee orientation programs. This activity can give your top employees the opportunity to shine in front of not only their peers, but their new team members.

3. The next idea: send your high achievers to advanced training classes, or sign them up for webinars that will take their skill sets to the next level. Like the saying goes, “When you’re green, you grow and when you’re ripe, you rot.” Research shows that one of the top reasons why people will leave a company is because they feel they have become stagnant in their job. Most people want to work at something they find exciting and rewarding. When they work in an environment where they are continually challenged, and have the opportunity to learn new skills to solve problems, they blossom.

Mel Kleiman, hiring expert and president of Humetrics, author of the book 100+1 Top Tips, Tools & Techniques to Attract & Retain Top Talent, suggests that, “One way to build a culture for retaining the brightest and most productive employees is to give people the freedom to make mistakes.” How do you and your management team react to the mistakes that are made by your employees? If you punish or ridicule them for their errors, you are not building the kind of allegiance you need to keep the best employees. Kleiman says, “The best small business owners create the kind of environment where errors are used as learning and development opportunities for individuals and the entire organization.”

Let’s look at two more ways you can put together the right formula of incentives that attract and retain the best employees for your company.

1. Kleiman suggests that you “thin the herd of ‘sacred cows’”. In other words, this is the mindset of “how we do things around here”. He goes on to say that, “Yes, some of the specific practices at one point may have contributed to your small business success, but they may be inhibiting fresh, new ideas and limiting your success in the future.” By eliminating some of these outdated and non-productive practices, you are building a structure that will lead to a better place to work.

2. Another area that is critical to creating the kinds of incentives that attract and keep the best team members, is to create a fun, positive atmosphere. Over the years, I have personally observed from my clients that the companies that were fun to work at, along with having a caring and supportive environment, were the most successful and profitable.

I remember when I began working at one of my first companies. The environment was upbeat and fun, and we all laughed a lot. The owner used humor; it was extremely enjoyable to work there, and I loved it. However, as the years passed, the owner became more and more cynical and began to lead the company with a fear-based mentality. At our regular meetings, I could tell the fun and laughter had left the organization. One by one, team members left to work elsewhere. Before long, I, too, left. It was a sad ending to such a happy beginning.

Whether you create an atmosphere of fun, positivity and laughter by holding potluck dinners, renting buses to go to ball games, having barbecues, getting everyone to dress up in costumes on Halloween or just going over to the neighborhood tavern, utilize the power of creating a fun place to work. It will pay huge dividends.

There you have it…some of the best ideas to create affordable employee incentives that will help keep your best employees happy and your business profitable. The time is right to stop talking and start doing.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Tom Borg works with small and mid-sized green industry companies. For more information or to ask him a question, contact him at 734-404-5909 or email him at: tom@tomborg.com or visit his website at: www.@tomborgconsulting.com.