4 Important Things to Remember Before Implementing an Employee Incentive Program

Employee motivations evolve as personal priorities shift and new workplace trends take over. That said, are you incentivizing your team in the right way?

One of the best assets a company can have are happy and engaged employees. There a lot of factors that can contribute to this. A good work/life balance is one. A fulfilling and satisfying career path is another. However, when it comes down to it, it’s really a company’s ability to recognize and motivate their team members in the right way.

What’s the best way to do that?

Let’s take a look at where we currently stand. Recent Gallup statistics show that “85% of employees are not engaged or actively disengaged at work.” This level of disengagement could potentially result in approximately $7 trillion in lost productivity.

Employee engagement affects key business outcomes

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Here’s what these statistics tell us—today’s generation, the Millennials, who currently make up the majority of the workforce, are showing higher levels of job dissatisfaction, leading to lower engagement. To be clear though, many younger employees don’t go into a job thinking it’s a placeholder for something better. Nor do they enter the workforce with the intent to job hop. On the other hand, they do have new criteria for what makes staying at a job worthwhile. Today, their commitment is anchored on a balance between shared values, a common vision, and a culture of recognition and incentives. In fact, according to Harvard Business Review, “performance-related pay was positively associated with job satisfaction, organizational commitment, and trust in management.”

In short, a business should value an employee’s contributions to an organization beyond just their ability to deliver tasks. Businesses have to start recognizing what each employee actually brings to the table and how that translates to tangible success. This way, employees can feel personally connected to the brand’s growth. Incentive programs are a great way to go about this.

Incentives can help your organization emphasize the value that you place on your team member’s skills and contributions. It often results in a positive increase in engagement levels. That said, here are a few important things you should consider before rolling out an employee incentive program:

1. Any program you implement should go beyond monetary incentives

Without a doubt, monetary benefits for a job well done are great perks for any job. However, it should be backed by something more.

Keep in mind that employee motivation today has shifted. As mentioned earlier, it’s a balance between fulfilling personal values, aligning overall company vision with individual employee goals, and positive recognition.

According to a Gallup study, a lack of recognition for what they contribute to the organization is one of the most common reasons why employees leave a company. A business’ inability to recognize and appreciate their contributions to organizational success leads to overall job dissatisfaction.

So remember this—

Even if your company has the budget and is more than willing to dedicate that budget towards incentives for your employees, always tie it back to something that’s meaningful for them. Getting a bonus on their paycheck may not seem as significant if the team members or manager don’t know exactly what they did to earn it.

2. Consider offering customized incentives

Customizing your approach to incentive programs shows that the organization is going above and beyond just allotting extra budget for employees. When you’re able to do more than just cut a paycheck, it shows that you’re taking the time to get to know your people and what they need.

Here are some ideas that you can try:

  • Company swag that’s tied to team culture and interests. For example, does your company have a lot of fitness buffs? Something like a branded gym bag could be useful and appreciated.
  • Lunch with the President/CEO. You’d be surprised at how many employees would love the chance to meet and pick the brains of a leader. A three-session coffee talk program with your CEO would be a great way to spur more engagement between management and the executive team, as well as opening up opportunities for mentorship.
  • Access to courses, seminars, and masterclasses to boost skill sets and provide additional training are great incentives for team members who are always on the lookout for ways to grow in your organization.
  • VIP parking is a surprisingly great motivational incentive that most employees would appreciate.
  • Conferences are typically expensive and are not often accessible to many employees. It is, however, a great platform to learn more and network, which makes it a valuable and coveted reward.
  • Gift cards to local restaurants and shops are simple and straightforward rewards that communicate your company’s intent to give team members enjoyable downtime.
  • Concert tickets to major events can spur excitement among team members and prompt them to go the extra mile.
  • Remote working as part of incentive programs has been known to significantly boost motivation.
  • Time off is often considered a priceless resource that highlights a company’s ability to prioritize work/life balance.
  • Charitable donations to your employees preferred recipients is also a great idea.
  • Travel is often seen as an aspirational perk, which means offering travel as a reward often elicits a great response from employees. 

While most employees are bound by common goals, remember that motivations will vary from one employee to another. For example, while some will prefer financial bonuses, others will opt for additional time off. You have a lot of room for creativity. It even opens up an opportunity for you to engage team members to discuss the best incentives you can offer among team members themselves.

3. Incentives should recognize genuinely exceptional performance

Incentives are dedicated for employees who go above and beyond what is expected of them. They are rewards meant to show your appreciation for employees who go the extra mile. They are also a motivational tool for excellent team members as well as those to push themselves further.

That said, be wary of using incentive programs as a way to bring mediocre or even non-performing employees to your company’s acceptable level of quality. Not only does this breed entitlement among employees who deliver sub-par work, but it might also lead to your high-performers thinking that the organization isn’t actually aligned with their personal values.

4. Set up a platform that can accurately track metrics to back your incentive programs

Personal values and big-picture company objectives aside, never forget that a big part of an employee’s performance metrics is still anchored on measurable metrics. 

Simple things like diligence and work ethic can be reflected in an employee’s attendance, for example. Clocking in on time daily shows discipline and sets a great example for other employees. Dedication can be highlighted in the hours they are willing to put in to get the job done as well. 

This is why it’s so important to track time at work. Taking into consideration these quantitative metrics in the context of qualitative data such as team reviews and manager feedback, gives you deeper insight into how your team members work. This will ultimately help you to craft incentive programs that your employees will respond positively to.

Look beyond straight-up cash bonuses and recognize the relevance of tying incentive programs to something more meaningful. Today’s workforce values appreciation and recognition in the workplace. It highlights that the time and effort they put into their job is meaningful and appreciated.

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