Plenty of popular employee rewards don’t actually increase engagement.
We’ve seen this happen time and time again with our enterprise clients who come to Inproma seeking a new, innovative solution to their employee rewards problem. CEOs complain that their corporate points programs, travel incentives, or annual raises aren’t doing enough to raise retention rates or productivity. They need unique ways to reward employees. And they need rewards that pull their weight when it comes down to the bottom line.
The best employee rewards are applied with careful timing and frequency—which prevents your complimentary vacation idea from losing its luster after year two. They’re based in visceral experiences, not hidden boosts to the employee’s bank account. They’re designed to appeal to both the extrinsic and intrinsic motivators of your team. Together, all of that means your rewards system should be completely customized to what drives your team to success.
If you’re looking for a unique way to shake up your employee incentives, try one of these four ideas. These strategies involve short-term high-value rewards that build over time. Use them to breathe new life into your employee rewards system and increase engagement across the board.
1. Office-Based Rewards
Google leads the world with their range of unbelievable office perks. Free food, in-house massage, and intense fitness offerings are great options for enhancing your office environment. But these perks function better as benefits than as rewards. Office perks can quickly become expected and taken-for-granted by your employees.
We’re suggesting a new approach. Choose the most valuable office perks and dole them out judiciously as rare incentives for your employees. The key word here is rare. Each of the following ideas can be highly powerful when awarded once over the course of two years. Reward a generous number of “winners” for each incentive, but make these rewards even more enticing by giving them a limited edition, get-them-before-they’re-gone setup.
Figure out which experiences would really matter to the most employees at your company, and start a competition or productivity push. The following office-based rewards are a good place to start generating ideas for rewards:
- Director For a Day. Award your winners with a day of (carefully allocated) office-based power. They shouldn’t cause any real damage, and this reward is more about the social visibility than the decision-making power.
- Personalized Parking. Does your team complain day-in and day-out about how far they have to park from the office? Designate a few spaces for winners and personalize the signs with their names. For that week, at least, convenience is a powerful reward.
- Dinner With the CEO. Depending on the size of your firm, this reward might work better with a VP or department head. But face time with a serious superior will spark countless in-office conversations and give your winners the double reward of peer recognition.
- Corner Office Claim. Let each of your winners work from the prized corner office for a day—maybe even with help from a personal assistant. This reward has the potential to get your employees dreaming big and planning future career moves within your company.
2. Bonus Time Off
We all have “generous PTO” stamped on our job listings—but how many of your employees actually take advantage of their full two weeks? Research also shows that in companies with unlimited PTO, employees take even less time off. From a health and wellness perspective, that seems absurd. We all need time off to rest and recharge so we can do our jobs effectively. The goal of PTO is to help your employees take care of themselves, so they can enjoy coming into work each day and produce better work on behalf of the company.
Especially if your company runs on a stressful work environment, consider awarding bonus time off as an incentive. This is also a great first step toward creating an employee-first culture within your enterprise, as it deliberately portrays your company as valuing the wellness and happiness of employees.
This reward works best when used fairly often, but always with an element of surprise. No competitions or power-hours here. Did one of your cold callers seriously increase dials this week? Give them Friday afternoon off, and have their managers check in to make sure they’re actually taking that time.
Another variation would be to reward your entire office with a surprise day off and tickets to attend a local festival or conference. For example, tech companies in Austin, TX often cash in on this reward during SXSW, the biggest multimedia festival of the year—and local Austinites know exactly how valuable that reward is, in every sense of the word. Just imagine what kind of loyalty that breeds among your employees.
3. Creative Cash
Annual raises and sliding scale commissions aren’t doing enough to motivate employees. They’re nice to have, of course, but they’re often treated with the same nonchalance as comprehensive health insurance or a generous 401k matching policy. When it comes to loyalty and retention, employees tend to value recognition far more than a 2% salary increase.
Still, cash can be a really strong motivator when used appropriately. What would it feel like, as an inside sales rep, to walk out of the office this Friday with an extra $200 cash in hand? A few local sales floors here in the Bay Area have used this reward strategy to great effect, and word spread quickly.
This unique reward works best when offered as a complete surprise—perhaps only once every five years. Set up a large safe in the middle of the office. When a sales rep lands a big deal or a call center employee meets their target customer satisfaction metric, they get to ring the bell, walk up to the safe, and collect a percentage of their commission/reward in hard cash. It only takes one winner before you’ll have the whole floor engaged and pushing to hit their goals.
4. Powerful Incentive Programs
The three rewards we’ve already discussed work wonders in the present moment. They can help you shake up your culture and get your team excited about the rewards they could earn. But these ideas lose their power when they become stale and your employees start to expect them. Now, finally, we’re presenting the one option on this list that works long-term.
You’ve probably already got an incentive program of some kind in place. But the main reason most incentives flop is because they fail to reward the vast majority of employees.
The three ideas shared here, along with most existing employee rewards programs, are notorious for rewarding only the top 5% of performers within each role. While those rewards have earned their place in your lineup due to the amount of excitement they generate, you need to do more to boost employee engagement on a broader scale. Those winners are used to accolades, and are already working at max capacity. Try establishing a system that recognizes and rewards the work done by the other 95%—those diligent team members who work hard for you but might not be earning the free vacation or the Cubs tickets.
We recommend partnering with an experienced employee incentive company that can design a fully-customized rewards program around your needs. To get the most bang for your buck, make sure they craft your program around the following key points:
- Short-term, reasonable, and reachable goals for each role
- Multiple winners at each level, and each winner can win multiple times
- Name-brand rewards with high social currency value
- Social media and mobile app integration for peer visibility
At Inproma, we’re passionate about creating the kind of rewards programs that CEOs dream of. Our systems help to incentivize, recognize, and reward employees at all levels of an organization, and improve employee engagement across the board. By combining unique ways to reward employees today with a powerful incentive program for tomorrow, you can create a workforce that’s truly motivated to reach your biggest corporate goals.