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Workplace Incentives That Your Employees Want

image for Domepitipat / Getty Images
Domepitipat / Getty Images

Employee incentive programs like rewards or discounts may sound good in theory, but they're not always as beneficial as they seem. They could be useless and unappealing, even if you've put a lot of effort into putting them together. While workplace incentives are positive ways to show appreciation for exceptional employees, some programs are difficult to use or simply don't matter to workers.

If you want your staff to use your incentive programs, it's crucial to make sure your employees care about the rewards you're offering. The occasional pizza party might be appreciated, but it doesn't have a lasting effect. You need to be strategic. If you succeed, the payoff will be worthwhile. Not only will it be motivating for employee productivity and overall wellness, but it could make your workplace a significantly more desirable (and profitable) place to work.

Based on recent research, it's critical – now more than ever – to keep employees motivated. After all, the job market is competitive, and you have goals to achieve; your workplace has to make a lasting, positive impression.

To help your organization stand out, Business News Daily compiled some tips for implementing workplace incentives that your employees will want.

There are several benefits to employee incentive programs that promote overall wellness.

For one, these programs help employees feel more fulfilled in their day-to-day responsibilities. According to a 2018 Cornell University study, people who were rewarded immediately and frequently were overall more interested in and motivated to complete small tasks while at work. Additionally, the same research concluded that after the rewards were removed, the same people were still engaged and interested in their work. This shows the positive relationship between instant rewards and long-term job satisfaction.

Incentive programs also help with staff recruitment, retention and engagement, according to the Incentive Research Foundation. When rewarded the right way, people are not only more likely to stay engaged and employed at your office, but your workplace becomes more appealing, increasing in its desirability even to those who aren't (yet) employed by you.

Cash incentives and nonmonetary incentives alike can promote motivation, which can significantly increase productivity and, potentially, profits. The top three incentives are cash, gifts and experiences. Some examples of gifts are electronics, ride-share credit and gift cards. Experiences include perks like tickets to concerts, festivals and sporting events.

Your rewards must excite employees. Additionally, for the system to truly work, these rewards must only be given in exchange for meeting certain goals and never for any other reason, not even birthdays or other nonperformance occasions.

Incentive plans should be reassessed to ensure they are serving their purpose. Your rewards should reflect the values of an organization, according to the Human Resource Executive.

One common issue is that a program isn't engaging; there is a low participation level among employees. Not only is this a poor use of resources, but low participation could indicate a culture of low participation in your workplace as a whole. 

A recent Google consumer survey conducted by employee-verification company SheerID revealed that among 500 respondents, only 22% of workers use their employee discount programs.

However, if these programs were easier to use, 46% said they would use them more often. These are some popular employee discounts that are most likely to be used, according to the survey:

  1. Entertainment/attractions/travel (63.10%)
  2. Restaurants (54.72%)
  3. Software/computers/electronics (49.55%)
  4. Subscriptions (Netflix, Spotify, etc.) (38.32%)
  5. Apparel/health/beauty (28.16%)
  6. Office supplies (20.50%)

One of the best arguments for implementing incentive plans is that they're really simple to put together, especially if they aren't cash incentives.

More than 300 HR professionals participated in a survey conducted by the Michael C. Fina Recognition and confirmed that employees highly value workplace recognition programs, which cost very little to implement. Almost three-quarters of the respondents said their companies are planning to expand their recognition programs within the next year.

Some of the most influential recognition initiatives, according to the respondents, are performance awards (33%), service anniversary awards (20%) and personal notes or e-cards (10%).

The key to an excellent incentive program is structure. If you don't have a fully hashed-out plan, you could be wasting resources that could be better spent in other ways.

If you are looking into monetary incentives, consider all the options out there, especially since you'd be investing money in them. The Society for Human Resource Management lists some common structures for monetary rewards:

  • Annual incentive plans that reward performance-related goals and results
  • Discretionary bonus plans where management distributes a pool of bonuses to employees based on their performance
  • Spot rewards based on completing a specific task or goal
  • Profit-sharing plans in which employees share an organization's profits
  • Gain-sharing plans that celebrate the results of productivity gains collectively
  • Team incentives that focus on the results of a small group of employees
  • Retention bonuses for employees who stay longer than specific periods of time
  • Project bonuses for completing a project within a certain time frame

However, incentive programs don't always come in the form of a financial reward. Bank of America's 2015 Workplace Benefits Report revealed that 70% of employers find incentives to be effective. However, few employers offer or consider offering solutions that financially benefit employees, whether that means offering extra cash or helping workers save money.

According to the report, the most popular financial incentives include cash rewards like gift cards or bonuses (29%), a points program for discounts or cash (14%), discounts on health insurance and premiums or other products (11%), and drawings or raffles (11%).

Rewards, if implemented correctly, have a positive effect on an organization's goals. According to The Business Journals, employee incentive programs can boost profitability, reward the best workers, support business values, improve teamwork and morale, and attract (as well as retain) top talent. 

Sammi Caramela contributed to the reporting and writing in this article.

Adryan Corcione

Adryan Corcione is a freelance writer. To learn more about their work, visit their website. They also run a blog called the Millennial Freelancer and a newsletter Rejected Pitches.