Inc. 5000 honorees tell us how they would tackle a common business challenge. This month: How do you reward a top performer without harming team morale?

"We typically give out rewards in a private meeting as opposed to holding up one person in front of the entire company. The reward could be financial or recognition or a leadership position, but regardless, the individual setting works better than handing out an employee-of-the-month trophy."

Stacy Robison Co-founder and president, CommunicateHealth (health)
No. 3,319 2017 Inc. 5000 rank
96% 3-year growth
$5.5M 2016 revenue

"We have a fishbowl in the middle of our bullpen. Whenever someone does something above and beyond, someone else writes a comment about it and drops it into the bowl. At our monthly staff meeting, we read the comments aloud and everyone acknowledges their co-workers in a way that's fun and collaborative. I keep track of the comments, and at the end of the year, the employee who received the most gets an extra vacation day."

Steve Savage  Founder and CEO, 1908 Brands (food & beverage)
No. 3,542 2017 Inc. 5000 rank
87% 3-year growth
$5.2M 2016 revenue

"I'll create an activity--a dinner out, or something everyone's been dying to do--and offer it as a reward to anyone who performs above a certain level. We recently had some employees who really wanted to go indoor sky­diving, so I sent out a note to the whole company and said, 'If you're able to achieve a certain level, you can join us.'"

Adam Stettner Founder and CEO, Reliant Funding (financial services)
No. 2,809 2017 Inc. 5000 rank
122% 3-year growth
$51.9M 2016 revenue

"Twice a year, we recognize 10 percent of our staff, in front of the whole company, for stellar performance over the previous six months. The value of the gifts is the same for everyone, but we tailor them to each employee's taste, so the person gets the feeling 'They know me.' If someone just had a baby, we'll give her a gift card to a baby store."

Michelle Wyatt Co-founder and CEO, CadmiumCD (business products & services)
No. 1,929 2017 Inc. 5000 rank
198% 3-year growth
$5.1M 2016 revenue

What the Expert Says

"When you've hired someone, during orientation, plant the seeds of what the expectations are to get an end-of-the-year bonus or reward. Make it a fair game. Really tie your rewards to performance goals that are specific, measurable, and achievable. Help your employees reach those goals by providing training and resources as needed. People are people. We've learned, through the years, that you can't control people's emotions, but what you can do is keep everybody engaged and make it a fair playing field."

Jaiya Bakshi Founder and CEO, JBR Solutions (human resources)
No. 531 2017 Inc. 5000 rank
842% 3-year growth
$3M 2016 revenue