money grabWhen you’re looking for ways to reward your employees, the easiest fallback is cash. Financial incentives and bonus checks are widely known to be motivating, and for many they are highly motivating, but is a 15% split really the best you can do over the long run? (Click here to tweet this thought.)

Here are some other ideas for ways to reward your team members that give them richer lives — and give you better long-term payoffs — than the average “holiday bonus” ever would:


1. Teach Them

Top performers are always learning, and you want to feed that hunger for knowledge — or risk losing them to the competition. Give your team access to trainings, courses, conferences and opportunities to practice their skills.

As they continue to prove themselves, provide as many opportunities as you can for them to grow their skills and knowledge base.


2. Offer Them Flexible Hours

If you can provide it, offer flexible hours as a reward for success — or even as a standard part of the job. The 9-to-5 office is a generally accepted standard, but it’s certainly not a requirement for productivity.

It could make a huge difference for your team in their non-work lives, and an easier home life builds work/life balance satisfaction — which in turn increases their odds of success.


3. Give Them the Lead

When you’ve got engaged employees and even a few top performers, offer them the chance to direct their own path. Autonomy can be extremely motivating. Establish “trip wires” and checkpoints to avoid any serious threats to their (and the team’s) success, then let them take the lead in some new way.

Whether they’re choosing their newest assignment, practicing a different skill or testing a new model, see what your people can do when they’ve got more responsibility and more creative direction in their individual roles.


4. Give Them Mentors

The opportunity to connect with and learn from experienced professionals can be invaluable for an employee’s career growth — and it also makes them an integral part of your team’s success. Foster connections between your employees and your successful peers and higher-ups, and make it possible for these professional relationships to get traction.

Creating the opportunity for these mentors to pour into your hard-workers will pay off in untold ways — for you, for them and for your company.


5. Thank Them

Whether publicly or privately (or both), let your team members know you see what they’re doing and that they’re doing a good job. Send an email or leave a notecard on their desks; mention an accomplishment during a meeting; nominate them for awards. Whatever mechanisms are in place to acknowledge hard work and excellent performance, make use of them.

All in all, there are countless ways to reward your employees. It all comes down to what works for them for both short-term and long-term motivation. Taking an eye to the long haul while relieving some of the day-in, day-out pressures will get you the biggest results with your team.

What’s the best intangible bonus you ever got? Let us know in the comments!

Image: Flickr