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How Employee Incentive Programs Increase Engagement and Retention

employee incentive programs

It’s one of the oldest principles in psychology – a person’s motivation to complete a task comes most strongly from the positive reinforcement they will receive afterwards. Your company may be great at recognizing employees for their productivity, but sometimes they might just want something a bit more tangible.

That’s where employee incentive programs come in! These programs help managers reward their teams with bonuses, gifts, or events for putting in exceptional effort on the job. Whether given to one worker or a whole department, the presence of distinct incentives will motivate your staff to go above and beyond to both gain recognition and receive that “something special” that’s waiting for them.

This isn’t just a hunch; studies have shown that incentive programs boost productivity by 25-44% while simultaneously solidifying engagement and retention. The variety in numbers comes from the variety of ways you can customize your rewards program. Perhaps your staff wants a night out together, a monetary bonus, or a gaming system for the break room. They might all agree on one idea, or they might each want something different.

Most incentive programs will have the flexibility to adapt to nearly anything your team desires. You could send out surveys to determine what the group would prefer as a whole, or your program may have the ability for employees to select individual prizes for themselves. Either way, you’ll find that no one will be left unrecognized for their extra effort. 

So, what might be reward-worthy for your team? I may not know the goings-on of your organization, but no matter what, it should be extra effort that earns your team their incentives. Maybe it’s hitting some sort of milestone, completing an important OKR set earlier than expected, or maintaining a long streak of consistent excellence. Handing out prizes for standard effort isn’t nearly as motivating for a workplace.

You should also ensure their goals are specific as well as challenging. Ideally quantifiable, your team has to be aware of exactly what they need to achieve in order to cash in a reward. Vague or subjective language such as, “Consistently impress our clients”, feels arbitrary, and can leave workers confused as to how they’re supposed to meet the goal. 

Instead, your goals should be based on something measurable, like sales numbers or a deadline. For example, an employee might earn a reward if they land 30 new clients in a month, surpassing their company’s average. A team might earn a reward by rolling out a product update before Q2 is up. As long as it represents extra effort, it can be eligible for incentives.

We’re not done yet!

We’ve got plenty more resources on building the best workforce from the bottom to the top. Take a look at our e-book on Mastering the Employee Experience, or our analysis of Gallup’s 12 Elements of Employee Engagement. All of our resources can be found in our Library – check them out here! To see HelloTeam in action, click here — and to set up a meeting with us, go here!

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