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Best Practices for Employee Incentive Programs

First of all, we need to understand the importance of an incentive program and what these incentives include.

The study conducted in 2023 titled "Employee Engagement Trends Report," carried out by Reward Gateway, provides valuable insights into this matter.

According to their report, which surveyed over half a million employees across various industries, organizations with effective recognition and incentive programs experienced higher levels of employee engagement. Specifically, the report found that:

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  • 89% of global employees say feeling listened to by leadership is important to their wellbeing at work.

  • 66% of employees agree their work wellbeing would improve if they were simply thanked more for their hard work.

  • Effective incentive programs correlated with higher levels of job satisfaction, productivity, and commitment among employees.

If you visit our blog about holistic leadership, you can see the statistics that demonstrate how a positive employee can bring positive results to the company they work for.

Let's take Google as an example, an American company with over 60,000 employees spread across more than 50 countries, known for its high engagement levels among its workforce despite the demanding nature of its work. But how does Google ensure its employees feel recognized with such a large workforce? This company is one of the pioneers in innovative employee incentive programs, offering performance bonuses, recognition programs, on-site wellness and fitness centers, free meals, childcare services, generous parental leave policies, and corporate retreats for managers.

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While it's true that a large company like Google can be creative with its incentive programs, this didn’t happen overnight. Therefore, here are some practices to consider when initiating a motivating employee incentive program:

We recommend starting with an employee survey to understand what they are looking for in an incentive program. If you provide incentives that don't motivate them, the program will not be effective. In the survey, categorize the benefits into monetary and non-monetary ones, ensuring they align with the company's values.

Before delving into some incentive ideas, we have to create an economic plan. Keep in mind that when you start your incentive program, you are giving your employees a motivation that you can’t take down later. Cost things out to make sure the plan is sustainable over the long term.

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5 Examples of Incentive Programs:

  1. Recognition Program: According to Glassdoor’s Employee Appreciation Survey, 53% of people stated that feeling more appreciation from their boss would help them stay longer at their company. You can organize end-of-the-year parties to recognize years of service, outstanding individual or team performance, personal development achievements, and objectives met. Additionally, surprise celebrations, team outings, and lunches can be arranged for smaller achievements, while significant milestones may warrant a company retreat. For the entire company, holiday parties provide employees with something to look forward to.

  2. Employee Wellness Initiatives: Employee wellness initiatives promote the health and well-being of employees by offering incentives for participating in wellness activities. This can include subsidized gym memberships, wellness challenges, on-site fitness classes, or incentives for maintaining healthy lifestyle habits such as discounts on fruits and vegetables.

  3. CSR Team Building Activities: In today's world, sustainability is a topic that humans are increasingly conscious of. Being part of a company that promotes sustainable activities make employees feel better about their work contribution. Many employees may not know how to approach or contribute to environmental efforts, which is why promoting team-building activities with a purpose benefit both the planet and teamwork. Examples include tree planting days, land restoration projects, building shelters for animals affected by deforestation, or initiatives focused on recycling and poverty alleviation.

  4. Professional Development Opportunities: Knowledge is power for some. Education, even in adulthood, is something that always makes employees feel good, but many older individuals may hesitate due to the financial cost or being accustomed to working. This program can include tuition reimbursement for further education, access to online learning platforms, mentorship programs, or opportunities for job rotations and promotions.

  5. Performance-Based Bonuses: These bonuses can be tied to individual, team, or company-wide performance metrics, such as sales targets, customer satisfaction scores, or project milestones. By offering monetary rewards for exceptional performance, companies motivate employees to strive for excellence and drive results.

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Over time, the interests and motivations of your employees are prone to change, leading to fluctuations in the effectiveness of various incentives. Fresh opportunities may emerge, or alterations in prevailing expectations among employees may transpire. It's vital to remain flexible and attuned, consistently evaluating and adapting your incentive strategies to match the evolving needs and preferences of your workforce. By staying responsive to these dynamics, you can ensure that your incentive programs retain their relevance, efficacy, and ability to foster employee engagement and enthusiasm.

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