Human Resources

Starting an Employee Incentive Program

Written by Amy Bax for Gaebler Ventures

There can be nothing better than a simple "thank you" for a job well done by your employees. But sometimes, it is a nice incentive or motivational boost to do something a little extra to reward hard work. If you want to know how to create effective employee motivation progams, here are a few considerations to think about before you start.

Thinking about starting an employee incentive program to motivate employees?

Many companies have started incentive programs for reaching a certain number in sales, applications received, referrals made, lowering absenteeism, etc.

If you decide to launch an incentives program to motivate employees, here are a few considerations to think about before you start.

Have specific objectives and guidelines of the incentives program

Like any other campaign, make sure you have objectives that are going to be accomplished by the program. They need to include the SMART concept, which means they need to be specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, and timed.

Make sure employees know exactly what they have to do and are able to attain this goal. The key here is to make sure that whatever goals they are trying to reach, that they are realistic and attainable. Otherwise, employees may realize they will not be able to reach a certain standard, and not become motivated to participate in the program.

Also, time is a very important inclusion. Too short of a program will make the goals seem less attainable, and too long may not provide much motivation to work harder because they feel they have sufficient amount of time to get it done and production or sales will not change.

Make sure the guidelines are well known by employees. Signs or posters with the rules, timeline, and rewards should be posted so there is no confusion in how to participate.

Keep up motivation throughout the employee incentives program

You want to keep employees excited to work hard to make their goals. Benchmark small successes as part of the program to keep this up. Giving out small rewards, recognition, etc. will keep their "eye on the prize". Also, by giving benchmark prizes, other employees may see this and become more excited about getting involved.

Promote the contest throughout the workplace with posters that track results or promoting the contest. This will be a reminder of where they stand and where they need to get to in order to receive their incentive.

At the end of the incentive program, clearly communicate the results. These results include not only the winners, but the results of their hard work such as an increase in profits or improved customer satisfaction.

You can do this informally through email or a meeting, or through a more formal outlet such as a dinner depending on what kind of budget you have established. Most importantly, however you decide to report results, remember to clearly thank everyone for their participation and support.

Cautions in starting an employee motivation program

Be careful in the frequency that you use these programs. Having a constant incentive program in practice really does not add more motivation and will only disgruntle employees if they expect it on a regular basis and you stop doing them.

Make the incentive worth the effort. Employees will not change their pattern unless they have something that they are excited to work towards. They may feel insulted if the reward, such as a small bonus or reward they do not need, is not worth the exertion of more work.

Make sure what you are rewarding will not upset the workplace or productivity negatively. By having a program solely focused on sales, you may have a sales force that starts to compete and take sales away from each other than an attempt to increase sales as a whole. Find a program that rewards employees working together towards a common goal versus competing against each other.

Amy Bax is interested in providing innovative informational resources to entrepreneurs. She is currently an MBA student at the University of Missouri - Columbia.

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