Richard Correia of NICE shares his advice for creating an incentives scheme that motivates your team to keep improving.
Every business offers incentives in the workplace. The most basic incentive is compensation – the pay that we receive for doing a particular job. Long ago, a paycheque was enough to motivate employees.
Not any more. Today, businesses and organizations juggle all kinds of incentives in the workplace to make sure employees are productive, excited, and loyal to the company.
Incentives in the workplace are used to recruit employees (e.g. competitive compensation packages); to nurture desirable behaviours (e.g. teamwork); and to achieve productivity and performance goals (e.g. KPIs) that the business deems critical to its ongoing viability and success.
There are so many kinds of incentives in the workplace, it helps to break them down into these four categories:
1. Compensation Incentives – The include commission plans, raises, bonuses, health benefits, profit sharing, signing bonus, stock options, flex-time, and more.
It is important to have the right mix of compensation incentives for each type of job and each employee your company wants to hire and retain.
Companies invest significantly to make sure their compensation incentives are attractive and competitive.
2. Reward Incentives – These use items such as gift catalogues, gift cards and cash vouchers to reward outstanding performance or exemplary behaviour.
This category also includes educational opportunities that will advance the development of employee talent.
Another incentive is the referral reward that pays a “finder’s fee” to employees who refer a suitable job candidate who then is hired and becomes a successful employee of the company.
3. Recognition Incentives – These are used to acknowledge and thank employees for a job well done, a milestone met, personal effort beyond the call of duty, or any accomplishment that exemplifies the goals and behaviours that the company wants to promote.
Recognition comes in many forms – from a public recognition ceremony at periodic company meetings to daily posting of top performers on a gamification leader board. Often, recognition is combined with a reward.
4. Appreciation Incentives – These show employees that they matter as individuals – not just as workers.
To show appreciation for all the time and effort people dedicate to work, companies host social events such as holiday parties, ice-cream socials, team outings, and off-site lunches.
They may also sponsor sports teams for employees who want to compete, and celebrate birthdays with a personal gift certificate.
There are so many ways to show appreciation. The key is to choose the incentives that your employees value most.
4 Tips to Offering the Right Incentives
Which incentives should you be using in your workplace? Here are four tips for determining what will work and what won’t.
Tip #1: Incentives in the Workplace Should Promote the Behaviours You Want to Encourage, not Just the Goals You Want to Achieve
While this sounds like a no-brainer, many incentive programmes have not delivered the expected results. The problem usually lies in focusing only on the outcome you want to achieve and not on the actual behaviours that will lead to that outcome.
It’s a fine line but a very important distinction that can make the difference between success and failure. It’s all too easy to unwittingly encourage the wrong behaviours.
For example, if only individual KPIs (such as a sales quota) are rewarded, employees may be incentivized to hoard information and work independently rather than as a team – creating a competitive “every man for himself” atmosphere.
You may even achieve the sales numbers you want, but at great cost in terms of employee morale and retention. On the other hand, if incentives are based on both individual and team achievement, employees will share critical information and successful methods, pick up the slack if someone falters, and work together to make their numbers.
In this way, you not only achieve your sales goals, you also create an atmosphere of camaraderie and cooperation that is beneficial to employee morale and retention.
Tip #2: Avoid Turning Incentives in the Workplace Into Entitlements
When you use the same incentive over and over again, you risk turning an incentive into an entitlement. For example, consider the company that recognizes and rewards three outstanding employees at each quarterly company meeting during the year.
In anticipation of the meeting, department heads nominate their candidates and management chooses among the nominees.
At first, the recognition ceremony is special and the recipients are diverse. But after several iterations, the ceremony becomes perfunctory and loses its impact on employees.
Even a simple change such as recognizing only one outstanding employee this quarter (and not the “mandatory” three) or rewarding a team effort instead of an individual, or doing it only twice instead of four times a year can make the recognition incentive special again.
Tip #3: Find Out Which Incentives in the Workplace Make Employees Happy
There’s no need to reinvent the wheel when looking for incentives in the workplace. A good place to start is with Fortune magazine’s annual edition of The 100 Best Companies to Work For.
There you will find everything from comprehensive incentive programmes with multiple metrics that are scrupulously measured and analysed to modest incentives that simply make employees feel good about coming to work every day.
Many of the incentives that are valued most by employees do not cost a fortune.
Tip #4: Low-Cost, Big-Impact Incentives in the Workplace
One of the fallacies of incentives in the workplace is that they are expensive and companies cannot afford them. While raises, bonuses and promotions are highly valued, they are seen as part and parcel of being an employee, and these rewards are indeed costly.
However, incentives that transcend the employment contract and are seen as special perks are greatly appreciated by employees, especially those that recognize the personal time and effort they devote to their work and to the company. These are not so costly.
Surveys indicate that employees really appreciate flex-time that allows them to be with their families or pursue their interests. Another favourite is gift cards that they can spend on themselves or on loved ones.
Even a simple handwritten thank-you note can go a long way toward making an employee feel valued and appreciated.
Benefits of Incentives in the Workplace
While your company will gain a lot by implementing a comprehensive incentive plan, even targeted incentives can help to boost:
Loyalty and Employee Retention: Incentives that recognize employee efforts and achievements, even in modest ways, result in employees who are more loyal to their company and far less likely to seek greener pastures elsewhere.
Motivation and Employee Engagement: Incentivized employees are eager to engage with the work they do and to perform.
Productivity: The express goal of many incentives in the workplace is to increase productivity and efficiency. If your incentives also result in happy and satisfied employees, you may even surpass your goals!