Best practices

All carrot and no stick! Why workplace incentives work for you and your employees

Let’s face it. You might have a corporation that people would kill to work for. You could have a fantastic business that performs stratospherically well. But when it comes down to it, work is work, and sometimes it can be tough and dull. It can be hard for your employees to see the payback for all their time and effort. That’s when they need an incentive or two – a carrot dangling before their eyes – to give them that little bit of uplift to keep going and produce their best work.

But why do employee incentive programs work? What do they look like? And what benefits do they bring to your organization?

Let’s have a look.

The incentives that companies think make employees happy

Starting off from the corporate perspective, there are the traditional employee incentives: salary increases, promotions – the standard trappings of a successful career, and these work to a certain extent.

Yet increasingly, companies have realized that they need to have a more holistic approach to the kind of perks they offer, and to give things that may not necessarily be as tangible. The immediately obvious one is healthcare and wellness provision – after all, a workforce that is healthy and frequently exercises is far more likely to be productive.

Another perk to consider is professional development. It has become a big draw for prospective employees to know that the company will help them advance their careers through training. An effective Learning and Talent Development platform will be a significant attraction.

If you’re looking for ideas for an incentive scheme, you wouldn’t go wrong from looking at the Fortune’s annual 100 best companies to work for list, and seeing the kind of perks the top organizations offer. You might be surprised: big benefits don’t always mean big bucks!

Which incentives really make employees happy?

But are what companies offer in the way of perks actually the kind of things that make employees happy? Well, yes and no, actually. You may be surprised at what they really value. Promotions and salary increases, while they have their place, are not always seen as the most important of workplace incentives.

A survey conducted in 2015 in the US suggests that other factors are considered to be more important by employees for their wellbeing and happiness.

Two things that employees in the survey indicated to be more important were family and friends. Bearing this in mind, you may want to consider an incentive plan that rewards your team with more time off to spend with loved ones, if they hit their given targets.

Employees also enjoy it when their organization recognizes their milestones and achievements, such as years of service, or exceeding personal performance targets. A well-structured employee incentive plan will include an employees’ yearly appreciation, where the employer awards placques and small gifts to employees who have been on board for 5+ years.

So what kinds of benefits are the most prized? While raises and promotions are strongly appreciated, it seems that employees really appreciate time off, wellness incentives, educational opportunities, and, for smaller achievements, things such as gift cards.

Above all, they cherish recognition for their time and effort, so any reward you offer that recognizes work done will go a long way in engaging and satisfying your employees.

With professional development in mind, an incentive, even a relatively small one, reaps benefits, as people are more likely to engage with their training.

Benefits of implementing employee incentive plans

Your employees, both current and prospective, will be delighted at all these lovely little carrots dangling before them. But what does your company get out of implementing a comprehensive incentive plan?

Here are a few points to consider:

1: Loyalty

Employees that feel their efforts are recognized, even in small ways, are far more loyal to their company. You’ll find that organizations with great incentive plans for employees not only can hold on to their staff for longer, but actually get corporate brand ambassadors in the process, as in their satisfied employees telling the world how great their employer is.

2: Employee retention

With loyalty also comes retention. On average, staff turnover is about 15% annually, but this varies depending on the sector. While some turnover is actually desirable (and, indeed, healthy) for corporate growth, you clearly don’t want to lose your best and brightest. Get your employee incentive plan right, and you’ll find that your employee retention rates will increase.

3: Motivation and engagement

Knowing that your work is recognized and rewarded is a huge motivation for any employee, so it makes sense to use workplace incentives to produce this. And, as we all know, a motivated team is also one that is engaged with the work they do and is more committed to the values, ethos and aims of their corporation.

4: Productivity

Last, but by no means least, a loyal, motivated, engaged, and above all happy workforce is far more productive. The strategic deployment of workplace incentives more than pays back with higher quality and volume work output.

You may think that incentive programs for employees are just a cherry on the cake, an extra that can be discarded, but that would be a mistake. Incentivizing your employees is a core component of creating, developing and retaining a world-class team. With a bit of creative thinking and planning, you’ll have a carrot that everyone will want to bite!

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