“Incentive plans can be great but more often they are a nightmare! For incentive programs to be successful they must start with an accurate, timely, and consistent measuring process.” – Lee Clark
Incentives can be rewarding and fun but they also can be disastrous to a business if not done right. They often do not need to involve direct cash money. Any incentive program absolutely requires a trusted measuring process. The following suggestions are ones that we have found worked over the last 25 years.
1. Production-based bonuses
The ability to earn additional money on top of salary and raises is an incentive that most would love to have. One effective way to set up a bonus program is to allow employees to measure their progress on a daily, weekly or monthly basis in order to continue improving. Individuals will measure their success against the company as a whole, and dollar amount for the bonus is based on their percentile rank in the company. This is also a great way to encourage open discussion about improvement and growth for those that earn the bonus and those that don’t.
2. Points program
Many employers have set up points programs similar to those of a credit card company. Certain behaviors or successes result in a certain number of points that can be redeemed for gift cards, cash back or a variety of other items. Making the program visible to the entire team can also encourage competition and increase participation. The down side to a program like this is that it could cost you more money than you’re able to budget, so if you’re looking to spend less on employee points perks, offer rewards such as long breaks or telecommuting days.
3. Health and wellness program
Health and wellness are becoming more important in many employees’ lives, but gym memberships are expensive. Additionally, not all employees will have time to balance a gym membership with a spouse, children, community involvement and more. One very highly appreciated perk is a wellness benefit. As with other perks, this program can be set up in a number of ways – discount to a certain gym, cash reimbursement on fitness-related equipment and classes or company athletic events. Regardless of how it works, healthy employees are likely to perform better and miss less work, so this will benefit your company as well.
4. Separate group and individual incentives
While group incentives help improve teamwork, individual incentives are more effective, as employees like to be able to control their own destiny. However, offering both is beneficial, but they should be offered as separate programs. In a sales environment, for example, this program could involve a reward for the individual with the most sales of a certain product, as well as a team outing for the group with the highest overall results. Individuals will be encouraged to participate and win the unique prize, but they will also want to be an active and vital part of their team.
5. PTO, paid holidays and relaxation
Whether your organization already offers PTO and paid holidays or not, offering the opportunity for additional free days is highly desirable as far as employee incentive programs. As opposed to only offering paid days off for sick days or emergencies, you could consider setting up a program where employees work to earn additional time off that they can use whenever and however they choose. Additionally, if they are unable to use the time before the year’s end, you could consider converting it to cash on their next paycheck.
6. Tuition reimbursement and learning opportunity
When the economy is down, employees are willing to spend time to improve their knowledge and skills in order to keep their jobs and work toward promotions. However, formal education and training are expensive, and it may prove difficult for employees to pay for schooling, especially those that have already completed degree and certificate programs. Tuition reimbursement and ongoing training opportunities are perks that can really help with employee retention. If you’re offering to pay for their education that could lead to an internal promotion, they are more likely to jump at the opportunity and perform better for your organization long-term.
Travel is a classic incentive for your team. Choose a resort location and plan a special training session there. Then, encourage your team to meet goals before they are allowed to come. Mix business and pleasure on these trips–give your employees a chance to relax in addition to learning new techniques.
Several additional options exist for employee incentive programs. Whether you choose to implement some or all of these suggestions or come up with some of your own, the key factor is figuring out what will work best for you and the members of your team. By offering employee perks, you’re giving your organization a better opportunity to gain top talent through recruitment and to keep them on board for the long haul.
We were fortunate to have had a chance to experience a measuring system that everyone trusted and worked. We ran our incentive for years and it was based on the top 2 incentive suggestions above. You can read more on the success of this incentive from an article in Concrete Construction magazine. We had a blast with this incentive, the employees that were a part of it still comment about its success and the fun it created.
Please comment on your successes or frustrations on incentive plans you have been a part of. If you have any other incentive suggestions please share those also. Thank you for participating!