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Employee Bonuses in Small Businesses

Paying competitive wages and offering bonuses and benefits are some of the best ways to keep employees happy. When larger organisations have bigger budgets it’s hard to keep up when it comes to retaining staff in SMEs. That’s why we’re here to share advice on how to provide bonuses and benefits on a budget. The goal is to run a business that is efficient, profitable for you and satisfying for your staff, all at the same time. Sure, it might sound ambitious, but it’s doable, and the path to a business model that can grow through retaining the best talent.

1. Make employee benefits a priority
The hassle and costs involved are better than a continuous recruitment cycle due to high staff turnover. Kate Parker, head of HR at Forster Communications, advises small businesses to determine what employees want, and what can be done in-house. “First, ask your employees what benefits they would like before you commit to anything. Every business is different and consulting with them helps build engagement right away,” she says.

2. Don’t rush your decisions
Don’t jump on the latest fad or presume that what you value is what your employees want. The last thing you want to do is pay for gym memberships when half the staff won’t use them. The whole point is that the benefit needs to seem valuable to the employee. It’s also worth talking to your insurers, as some benefits may already be part of your contract with them (like an employee counselling line). Why not sit down with each employee first and ask them what they would actually prefer? You could lay some things out on the table and find out what is best for them. There’s no reason that all employees need to have the same benefits scheme.

3. Organise benefits locally
If you’re building a benefits scheme from scratch, it’s worth noting that even the smallest, most cash-tight business can arrange some kind of discount scheme for staff. This could range from negotiating discounts at the local cafe to providing the employer’s own products and services at discounted rates. With a slightly bigger budget, you can talk to bigger retail businesses and ask what they have to offer. Many businesses offer a voluntary benefits service, partly funded by the employer and partly by the employee, from their wages.

4. Offer bonuses for meeting KPIs
It’s common to see bonuses structured around an employee meeting certain KPI’s and the company achieving higher profit as a result. The benefits to the employer are obvious. This is particularly useful in sales or business development roles, where the employee receives a percentage of profit created for the business. Even if your business doesn’t have a traditional sales role, this could be utilised. Perhaps you have a customer service agent who could make sales calls, or upsell current customers.

5. Out of the box rewards
HR firm People Matters write that top talent can be retained through strategically planned, inexpensive reward systems. In order to sweeten the deal, companies can offer soft benefits like flexible hours and performance-based benefits like profit sharing. Some SMEs reward their employees with both tangible goods, as well as praise. For example, a sales department may offer a monthly bonus to the highest earner. Not all tangible rewards come in the form of money. Some companies host free lunches, or give away company gear to good workers. Many managers choose to reward their best employees by simply praising them for a job well done, or by recognising the hard work they put into a project. The keys to develop a “reward strategy” are as follows:


  • Identification of company or group goals that the reward program will support
  • Identification of the desired employee performance or behaviors that will reinforce the company’s goals
  • Determination of key measurements of the performance or behavior, based on the individual or group’s previous achievements
  • Determination of appropriate rewards
  • Communication of program to employees

6. Flexibility and communication
In order to retain top talent and reward them generously, it is important to provide employees with work flexibility. You can now carefully monitor the performance of employees while they work at home, or at least offer flexible office hours, to keep top talent happy. SMEs have the opportunity to create an easy going environment with an open culture so the employees can relax and focus on work. HR managers working in SMEs can easily resolve workplace problems by having one-on-one interactions with employees and sharing valuable information. Every employee wants to go far in their professional career and a company with few top positions can offer to enrich the work experience by offering them the chance to learn new skills, job share or cross train. You could also throw in some extra perks like providing employees a chance to visit industry conferences or other events to add value.

7. Why not bundle benefits?
Sodexo are an organisation specialising in employee benefit bundles. It’s a great idea – offer a group of benefits tailored towards a specific value. You could give employees the option to choose which one is best for them. The great thing is, you don’t need a third party to organise this for you. Here’s what they include in their bundles – these are all things you could organise yourself:


  1. The Active Bundle: Keep your employees happy, healthy and working hard with benefits that put the focus on their health and wellbeing. With fantastic corporate rates for discounted gym memberships and an employee assistance program that gives people access to mental health support and counselling, you can make sure your employees know you care about how they’re doing.
  2. The Everyday Bundle: Make a real difference in your employees’ lives by helping them to stretch their salary that little bit further with valuable employee discounts on the everyday essentials – as well as some special treats, too. Think discounts at major supermarkets, retail stores, restaurant chains and entertainment venues.
  3. The Exclusive Bundle: This involves typical benefits like salary sacrificing and net pay deduction options that can help your employees access everything from childcare, cars, public transport and parking tickets to health services, new technology and loads more exciting options in affordable monthly payments.

As you can see, there are plenty of options available to provide bonuses and benefits at SMEs. Don’t let costs put you off. Get creative, ask for input from your employees and create a program they’ll find valuable, which will keep them satisfied and engaged.