Ideas for Employee Incentive Programs

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The popular saying, "People don't care how much you know until they know how much you care," should form the basis of any good employee incentive program. According to the Society for Human Resource Management's 2009 Employee Job Satisfaction survey, 52 percent of employees said that being recognized by management with rewards and incentives was very important to job satisfaction.

Offer Respect

According to a 2008 article in Bloomberg BusinessWeek, showing an employee respect has a greater impact on job satisfaction than earning material rewards. Author Carmine Gallo says the key to recognition boils down to granting attention. Gallo suggests that supervisors ditch laptops, cellphones and BlackBerrys in meetings to show respect to the person speaking, and that higher-ups maintain eye contact, avoid interruptions and ask about an employee's interests and goals when engaging in conversation.

Appreciation Awards

Sometimes a gift can speak volumes. When awarded along with public recognition, appreciation awards can encourage superior performance and loyalty.

Eagle Recognition, a consultant in recognition programs, suggests several types of employee incentive programs. Offering gift cards from reputable companies as well as traditional awards such as lapel pins for length of service can help motivate and retain high-performing employees. Eagle suggests making the presentation in front of an employee's peers as a way of conveying respect and admiration.

Profit Sharing

The entrepreneurship website encourages companies to share profits with their employees. Called profit-sharing or equity compensation, this program gives employees an incentive to take a personal ownership in the company and the work they do. Profit-sharing allows employees to feel a part of the success of a company and feel a sense of accomplishment, fostering a pride of ownership.

Simply put, profit-sharing takes a portion of a company's profits and divides it among employees. The money appears in the employees' paychecks, either regularly or yearly, in a lump sum.

Trips and Vacations

According to Maritz, a business consultant firm headquartered in St. Louis, Missouri, employee incentive trips are not just about sending people off to a glamorous location to have a good time. Trips must inspire the most improvement from the highest number of employees. The most effective incentive trips must be personally meaningful and motivating to an employee. Incentive trips that are personally meaningful will inspire greater engagement, which in turn will produce greater returns for the company.

Maritz stated that one in 10 employees who win an incentive trip will not take it, citing "unappealing trip" and "timing conflict" as their top reasons. Offering multiple destinations or time frames can help keep top performers motivated.


About the Author

When not working in her family-owned food and bar business, Viola Horne can almost always be found with a cookbook in one hand and a whisk in the other. Horne never tires of entertaining family and friends with both comfort food and unusual delicacies such as garlic cheese smashed potatoes and banana bacon pancakes.

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