Closing the incentive gap – delivering what your employees actually want

incentiveEnsuring what employees receive for achieving their objectives is relevant, so it is important to find rewards that will motivate your staff. In today’s incentive market there are a vast array of incentives available for employers to use, which are often categorised into the following groups:

Payment Incentives – this can include items such as pay rises, stock options, profit sharing schemes etc.
Recognition Incentives – examples of these include certificates presented at staff meetings, awards at company events, certificates presented by managers at team meetings etc.
Rewards Incentives – items include monetary rewards and gifts such as gift certificates, vouchers, discount cards etc.
Appreciation Incentives – these include invitations for employees to company events, corporate hospitality functions, social events, company family fun days etc.


How to choose an incentive scheme?

Incentives are used by employers for a number of different reasons. However, the main purpose behind them is to promote the kind of  behaviour that they would like their staff to adopt across their organisation. For example, they may wish to drive sales; reward staff who have achieved their targets; increase productivity; encourage teamwork; retain staff; or improve staff morale.

But how do employers know which incentives are going to be the most effective for their workforce, and achieve the best results?

The most important thing for an employer to do before launching any kind of incentive scheme is to ask the employees themselves what would motivate them, and what it is they want from it. As an employer don’t be afraid to ask your employees questions such as:

  • How would you improve things?
  • Are you actually financially motivated?
  • Do you feel valued by the rewards you are currently receiving?
  • What would you like to receive in place of the rewards currently on offer – theatre tickets, vouchers, a trip away, paint-balling, or a donation to their charity of choice?


Launching an incentive scheme

Launching an incentive scheme can create an instant buzz across the organisation, but the key to choosing the right scheme is to have one that offers you flexibility. It is important to be able to adjust the incentive plan so you can effectively reward the audience you are aiming it at. For example, an incentive for senior managers would probably be quite different to an incentive scheme launched for teams of administration staff.

In addition, it is important that employers present an incentive scheme that is transparent, so employees know what the criteria are, and understand the objectives behind the incentive. This will help build trust and understanding with employees, and therefore it is likely they will be more motivated and interested.

To ensure the scheme is a success employers also need to ensure they follow these 5 simple steps:

1.challenge Communicate criteria clearly, so employees know what you are trying to achieve.
2. Provide examples of how employees can effectively meet the criteria, and what they may be able to obtain by doing so.
3. State a specific timeline, allowing employees a reasonable period for them to meet the objectives and criteria set.
4. Reward every employee who achieves the targets set within the stated timeframe – and ensure they are rewarded promptly.
5. Enhance the reward by recognising each individual employee, either with a personalised letter thanking them for their valued contribution, or with an announcement at a company meeting.


Incentive schemes work well, and gain significant momentum in organisations, if they are managed carefully. By formulating an attractive incentive scheme, where it is easy to administer the rewards, and where employees receive their rewards promptly it will motivate and retain existing staff. Such a scheme will show employees that the organisation is taking incentives seriously; employees will feel valued and know they are doing a good job; and it will foster a better sense of trust and loyalty among staff.

Delivering what your employees want is critical to the success of any incentive scheme, but equally vital is ensuring the scheme is well managed.


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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