Buzz or Buzz off: How do employees really feel about incentive schemes?

we canIncentive schemes are usually implemented in a business in order to increase productivity and/or sales. They often reward over-achievement, what many of us call ‘going the extra mile’, and they may provide an element of recognition for a job well done. Many, many organisations believe in the benefits of incentives, especially over cash bonuses, where the bonus can get lost in the employee’s pay as a salary extension. Cash bonuses simply don’t have the same impact as incentives.

But how do employees really feel about your incentive schemes? Do they feel hyped and motivated to go that extra mile; do they feel disinterested and ambivalent; or do they even have a negative connotation, leaving them feeling unable to achieve while the spotlight is placed on them?


Buzz off!

Business can spend a great deal of time and effort emphasising the positive aspects of an incentive scheme, but the problems come when a scheme is badly executed and/or managed. Schemes that solely focus on short term financial goals, rather than support longer term business objectives, will often come unstuck.

Think back to the days when bank incentive programmes contributed to a culture of mis-selling, and the resulting impact that has had. Also getting the reward wrong can seriously damage your employees perception of the incentive scheme. A case in point is the hospital who rewarded its employees with a KitKat, yes you did read that right, a KitKat. Its 4,000 employees got a chocolate biscuit, whilst the management were treated to an expensive meal.

Allegations of favouritism and unremarkable rewards, will also result in disenchantment with any scheme. It’s no surprise then that badly executed and managed schemes don’t do anything for improving productivity and can create a distinctly negative impact.


Creating a buzz!

An incentive scheme that rewards your high performers, but is flexible enough to also reward special achievements and circumstances, will have the complete opposite effect.

At the planning stage it’s important to establish, and fulfil, a commitment to your employees to reward them for helping you achieve the business objectives. The incentive scheme can then be tied to the business objectives, expectations on standards and behaviour can be set out, and you can let your employees know that results are valued and rewarded.

As well as communication of the scheme, fairness is crucial to gaining employee buy-in and generating a buzz. Communicate clearly what is needed to be achieved in order to get the reward, and stick to it. However, it’s also important to have some flexibility to reward special achievements and circumstances. Voucher Cheques are a great way for managers to immediately reward employees for something exceptional, and as a result help build up the buzz and the excitement.


Tips for setting up a staff incentive scheme

1)  carrot incentive  Establish the goals and objectives you want the incentive scheme to achieve. These should be linked to your business objectives.

2)    Do your research, and find out what incentives your employees prefer. What will motivate them to go that extra mile, achieve those targets?

3)    Consider the budget, and talk to an incentive solution company who can help you with setting up the scheme and choosing the right rewards.

4)    Launch and maintain it properly. Create a buzz, some excitement, about the scheme so that your employees are motivated to try and achieve their targets and ensure that momentum continues throughout the year.

5)    Be transparent and open with employees. Communicate with your employees to keep them informed on their progress and show how achieving their targets will help the business achieve its objectives.


Get your incentive scheme right and it’s a win-win situation for both the business and the employees. A flexible and creative incentive scheme will not only keep your employees motivated, but it will also contribute to improving profitability.


John Sylvester

John is responsible for the motivation division of p&mm ltd and a Director on the board of the IPM. Specialising in developing, implementing and directing many large scale staff motivation, recognition and employee communications programmes.
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