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Overcoming challenges to implementing incentive programs

As with any corporate initiative, building effective reward programs depends on understanding the audience and tailoring the program to appeal to them.

Employee incentive programs help companies modify staff behavior to boost productivity and resolve deficiencies in performance. Unfortunately, many executives hear stories of when reward programs have backfired, generating little improvement, and are discouraged from enacting their own.

As with any corporate initiative, building effective reward programs depends on understanding the audience and tailoring the program to appeal to them. A common problem is generating excitement and participation for the initiative. Companies need to promote the benefits and clearly explain how they work to all employees. If workers can't understand the rules or are unsure of how to participate, they will avoid getting involved in reward programs.

Addressing the rewards may also help encourage participation. Many organizations simply offer small cash incentives or gift cards. Non-financial rewards may have a larger impact. For a tech-savvy staff, offering the latest iPad mini could spur excitement, but a more effective option is to give employees a choice. This ensures that everyone is working toward something that will be useful for them.

The South Bend Tribune states that rewards can be most effective when they are considered fair. Every employee should have an equal opportunity to be recognized for his or her performance and receive some benefit. One of the best ways to ensure reward programs are constructed fairly is to reward past behavior, rather than trying to implement change through the rewards. Employees who are known for being punctual and hardworking can be recognized through a public reward to inspire others to be more committed to arriving on time and delivering results.

Service rewards are an effective way to acknowledge the commitment of long-tenured staff members. Employees who have been with an organization for 10 or 20 years deserve special recognition for their work. Reaching these milestones should be a significant event for organizations, as they send a clear message to younger workers about the value of their time and experience. As long as companies are consistent with staff members, reward programs can build a supportive and engaging culture that drives company performance.

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