When it comes to recognizing your employees' efforts, most workers need a little bit more than a virtual "pat on the back" from the boss to stay motivated. That's why many employers choose to implement incentive programs to keep their staff engaged and working hard.
Offering rewards like gift cards, extra time off and free lunch isn't just a nice thing to do for your employees — it's great for businesses in the long run, too. A recent study by Genesis Associates, a U.K.-based recruiting firm for engineering, sales and creative sectors, found that 85 percent of workers surveyed felt more motivated to do their best when an incentive was offered, and 73 percent described the office atmosphere as "good" or "very good" during an incentive period. Employee reward programs also increased a company's overall profits by upward of 80,000 British pounds (about $123,600) per week on average.
So what kinds of incentives really push employees to work their hardest? Perhaps unsurprisingly, monetary rewards earned top spot — 40 percent of survey respondents cited money as the most motivational, followed by a free vacation (29 percent) and extra time off (23 percent). Other popular rewards include meals out, drinks and the option to finish your workday early. [10 Super Creative Ways to Motivate Sales Teams]
While individual incentives — those based on an employee's individual performance — may offer more valuable rewards, the Genesis survey found that 71 percent of workers preferred team-based incentives. Patrick Bell, managing director of Genesis Associates, said this is likely because when employees work toward a goal as a team, there are more people to help maintain high levels of motivation throughout the incentive.
"Working on a team incentive, there is a collective responsibility — you don't want to let your other team members down," Bell told Business News Daily. "Therefore, people try harder and generally achieve better results. Getting the team sizes right is important. Too big, and people can hide from their responsibilities, too small, and you may lose out on the benefits of higher motivation."
If you're concerned about the budgetary implications of offering rewards, Bell noted that it's not necessary to spend on incentive programs. For instance, Genesis uses other flexible benefits as an alternative to monetary rewards, such as early finishes, dress-down days, extended lunches, trophies or simply a picture on the wall or the employee's name on a hall of fame board.
"Different things will work better, depending on the culture of your business," Bell said. "We often task our group with coming up with ideas that don't have a financial value to them, as well as asking them what they would like to see for the bigger and more expensive incentives."
Bell also reminded employers that, for many employees, recognition is often more important than a cash amount or prize itself. Some people love public recognition, while others can be embarrassed if it's too widely announced, so it's important to take into account what would actually work for your staff, he said.
"We have a monthly award for Best Trainee/Resourcer, Best Recruiter and Team of the Month," Bell said. "We don't give out money for these incentives, but we do give a trophy, which is awarded at the start of the month, voted for by all our employees. For some people a mention in the newsletter or on social media is all the incentive they need."