In most small companies of less than 100 employees, it is best to motivate back office staff by providing clear direction on goals, demonstrating how they can be successful and then supporting accomplishments with recognition and non-cash rewards. A bonus program can be used but it is typically less effective and more expensive than a customized recognition approach.
The first step is to simply say thank you in a genuine way and connect it to results, such as: “We are able to repair our relationship with our important client because of your careful handling of the situation. The team can benefit from how you discussed the problem with them and found the solution that worked best to get us all back on track. I am planning to discuss your accomplishment with senior leadership so we can replicate this process in the future. Thank you!”
This example is specific, genuine and gives recognition that counts.
Another idea is to give non-cash rewards that are meaningful to the person. As an example, one of your high performers is planning to take time off and travel to Las Vegas with her husband. She is telling her friends at work that she is excited to see the Cirque du Soleil. An excellent reward would be to purchase these tickets for her and her husband to attend the event and present them to her before she departs. Tell her how important she is to the company and specifically mention a few of her accomplishments.
If your managers are not skilled enough to provide meaningful recognition with customized rewards then I would recommend manager training and to use small spot awards until your managers get up to speed. One word of caution, make sure that your cash awards are meaningful amounts for the employee’s accomplishments. If the amounts are not meaningful and the recognition is not timely then your actions can actually have a negative impact on motivation and morale.
Quarterly bonus programs can be effective but, once again, they are not as effective as customized non-cash rewards and you must have a well-established performance management system with effective goals setting and reasonably capable managers. This option is typically too expansive for small firms and it must be managed by a strong HR or Comp team to remain effective over the long term.
I hope this helps. If you would like to discuss further, please contact me.