How to Make Employee Incentive Programs Effective

How to Make Employee Incentive Programs Effective

Table of Contents

Workplace Incentives That Actually Work

How do you make employee incentive programs effective? How do you motivate your people to be their best?

The benefits of incentive programs — for you and for your employees — are undeniable. Incentive programs boost employee engagement and appreciation, which increase employee retention and productivity. Incentives are also an integrated way to bolster your organization’s culture and values.

Let’s dive into 10 ideas for incentive programs that reward your people, build your culture, and boost your bottom line.

1. Take a look at your benefits and incentives offerings vs. what people use (and need)

Before making any major decisions about new offerings, take a few minutes to review your current benefits and perks — including what your people actually use.

Are you putting budget toward parking passes for a workforce that’s mostly gone remote? Figure out which incentives are underutilized. Survey your people to find out why. And, most importantly, find out what they do use, and what they need more of. Keep these learnings in mind as you move forward.

Bonus: Not sure where to start? Use our article Perks, Benefits, and Employee Rewards — What’s the Difference?

2. Use incentives and awards to boost wellness benefits

Physical health is a win-win for our mental health and emotional well-being — and your health insurance costs. So use incentives, awards, and recognition to reward employees for participating in your wellness programs.

Bonus: Is your workforce newly remote or partially remote? You can still offer fitness challenges, do online group classes, and subsidize workout passes. Your people will feel appreciated, and it boosts their performance.

3. Don’t just offer incentives — make them easy to use

Thinking about hiring? Good benefits and incentive packages are important for attracting top talent. But they’re even more important for keeping the people you already have. According to SHRM, individuals who like their health benefits are much more likely to stay at their current job.

So in addition to offering great benefits and coinciding incentives, make sure people have the flexibility and desire to actually use them. For example: In addition to offering sick days, consider giving “healthy days” for employees to go to preventative healthcare appointments. And help prevent burnout by offering mental health days.

4. Build in employee recognition

Bonuses, vacations, and parties are nice. But honestly? You can get a lot of mileage out of just saying thank you. In fact, 81% of employees say they’re motivated to do their best work when their leaders show appreciation.

5. Offer rewards and incentives that fit your employees

Want to give great rewards and incentives? Get the best bang for your buck with a custom rewards catalog. So instead of everyone getting the same T-shirt, team members earn reward points to spend on what’s most meaningful to them.

What should you offer as rewards? Survey your employees and find out what matters to them. Maybe it’s a company water bottle or hoodie. Or monetary rewards. When you have a catalog that’s flexible, you can add what matters.

Manage incentives, growth, and more in one place:

The Benefits of an Employee Experience Platform

6. Incentivize employees to learn and grow

Top talent wants to grow. In fact, in 2019, the fastest-growing reason for high performers leaving their job for another was a lack of professional development opportunities.

So invest in your employees’ continuing education. Offer incentives like tuition reimbursement, mentorship programs, or a budget for the books, conferences, and webinars that will help them gain new skills.

7. Offer flexible scheduling

Now more than ever, protecting work-life balance is key for productivity, retention, and employee engagement. Remember, the location, hours, and tasks that work for one person may look very different for others, especially in a post-pandemic world.

So get flexible. Find out what conditions create success for your teams, and then enable them.

8. Celebrate big and small wins

You may not expect it. But there’s a huge ROI on celebrating birthdays, work anniversaries, and other important milestones in terms of a better employee experience,  connection to the team, and a  stronger sense of engagement.

Are employees working remotely? You can still make celebrations an active part of your employee incentive program. Try simple things like sending birthday flowers, planning a celebratory team picnic, or designating a “wall of fame” to share each other’s wins to boost camaraderie and morale.

9. Create professional opportunities

Help people take on higher levels of responsibility within the organization and grow their professional skills.

For example: Offer employees the opportunity to apply for open positions before posting to a job board or to social media. Not quite ready for that promotion? Work with managers to offer their team members clear, direct feedback on how they can get there. Use one-on-one Sync-Up and quarterly Check-In software to keep everyone aligned and on track for success.

10. Foster connection with team incentives

In remote and hybrid workforces, isolation can be a big contributor to burnout. But good employee incentive programs get creative.

Give employees something to work toward with team rewards. Try a group wine tasting over video chat. Or an hour of Zoom game time in the middle of the work day.. Using your employee incentive programs to promote togetherness and experiences can invoke much stronger emotional ties than some traditional, more transactional perks.

Managing employee incentive programs with tech

Making employee recognition a cornerstone of your company culture isn’t rocket science. But managing it is a different story.

That’s where we come in.