Guest Column - September/October 2010

Inspiring Excellence

A Quick Guide to Motivating Employees With Incentives

By Brian Rivolta, IP

I walked into a clothing store yesterday and received a flier that offered me 25 percent off of my next purchase. It also informed me that every Wednesday I could receive 30 percent off of all regularly priced items. And by the way, if I signed up for their credit card I would receive another 20 percent off. I'm fairly certain it wasn't just because they like me, and my guess is you have had similar experiences.

Consumer incentives and loyalty programs are plentiful right now. Everywhere you turn someone is trying to give you an incentive to buy what they have to offer. Cars, houses, you name it. But what about employees? It seems that too many of us have forgotten about incentivizing them and rewarding them for a job well done.

If your company is like most others, employees are being stretched thinner than ever. Yet the recognition for their efforts has been greatly reduced or in many cases completely done away with. So how do you show them your appreciation for what they have done during this difficult economic period? How do you motivate your people to excel in their job rather than just survive it?

Getting Started

There are several different types of incentive programs, and each is designed to achieve a different result. Of course, one of the most common is a sales incentive program designed to generate more productivity and revenue from a sales force. But what about safety programs for your drivers and laborers? Why not reward your customer service representatives with an on-the-spot gift as recognition for going above and beyond to solve a customer issue?

Simply put, there is a way to motivate every member of your staff.

The first step in running an incentive or recognition program is to clearly define your goals. What specific result do you want to achieve, and how can you engage your employees and modify their behavior in order to get that desired result? Remember that in a formal program, whatever it is that you are rewarding them for needs to be measurable.

As you begin to put together your incentive program, it is important to make sure that the rules of the program are clearly defined and easy to understand. The fewer rules you have to implement in order to reach your desired result, the better.

Another key element to a successful program is communication. You can't just announce a program and then leave it largely ignored until the completion date. The more often you communicate progress and status updates, the more likely the participant is to continually strive for that next level of recognition, and the greater the return for you.