According to a recent survey from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the United States unemployment rate reached an incredibly low 3.6% in mid-2019—the lowest rate we’ve experienced since 1969.
Low unemployment is a net-positive for employees. But there’s always an equal and opposite reaction to every force, and this situation can be hard on businesses over time. There’s a lot of slack in today’s labor market. Employers are compelled to raise wages in hopes of attracting the best talent and are often forced to settle for candidates with less-than-ideal qualifications. Employee retention has never been more crucial, and standard retention strategies aren’t working anymore. Some CEOs firmly believe that employee loyalty is dead.
While boardroom discussions across the country try to determine what went wrong with employee retention in today’s corporations, we’re interested in taking a more proactive approach. Employee engagement, satisfaction, retention, and loyalty are all running low—and creative incentives for employees might be a crucial part of the solution.
How Incentives Lead to Engagement And Retention
Take a moment to complete this simple thought experiment. You are a relatively young, early-career inside sales rep. You’ve got a few years of experience at mid-size companies under your belt, and are currently working a passable job with decent pay, moderate benefits, and some potential for promotion.
Unless you receive something truly special from this company—like an incredible community of coworkers, a significantly higher commission percentage, or powerful recognition incentives—nothing is tying you down. You’ve got feelers out on LinkedIn and at networking events, looking for the next best job that will advance your career and increase your pay. As soon as you find one, you’ll have no reason to stick around at your current company. You’d be silly not to leave.
Employee loyalty has fallen in the face of logical self-interest and an employee-first job market. This creates higher retention costs, certainly, but also drives disengagement costs as well. An employee with one foot out the door doesn’t have the capacity to give their all to your company. They’re passively disengaged most of the time. Fixing low employee motivation is the key to reducing turnover.
Start improving employee engagement by completing a comprehensive evaluation of how your company is incentivizing, recognizing, and rewarding employees. If you implement a robust employee incentive program that motivates and excites your team to work toward meaningful goals, you’ll go a long way toward improving engagement and retention rates.
Every employee is looking for a reason to stay in their current position. By offering high-powered rewards and meaningful recognition, you provide the best reason of all: the promise of lasting job satisfaction and personal fulfillment.
10 Creative Incentives For Employees
We’ve written at length elsewhere about how to ensure success with employee incentive programs, and creative incentive items like these don’t often factor into that discussion. The best employee rewards programs are strategically designed based on meaningful metrics and high-value rewards that are fully custom to your company and your team. Water bottles, iPads, and company potlucks alone won’t keep a faulty incentive system afloat.
That being said, if you’ve already done the work to design a fully-optimized employee incentive program, the following creative incentive ideas could be worked into such a program with great results. To motivate disengaged employees, consider the following creative incentives for:
- Custom uniforms
Branded apparel is a surprisingly brag-worthy reward item, especially for employees in more hands-on industries like fulfillment or telecommunications. Reward your team with custom jackets, uniform shirts, or hats that announce their achievement.
- Pop-up shops
Pop-up shops make fantastic spontaneous incentives, especially when established on top of an existing rewards program. Award employees for a very specific metric with coupons they can use at the pop-up shop, and they’ll be highly likely to participate.
- Insulated water bottles
Cliche, maybe. Still the most highly desirable gift item? Absolutely. Insulated aluminum water bottles are still 100% on-trend. Try adding a bottle with a branded full-color wrap into your lower level rewards rotation and bank on the “limited edition” aspect of it all.
- “Spontaneous” events
There’s nothing like arriving to work on Monday to discover that the entire company will be taking Friday off for a boat party. Or a company barbecue. Or a field day. The crucial element here is surprise—you might have had these events planned for months, but your employees don’t need to know that.
- Surprise PTO
Along the same lines, it’s always a welcome surprise to be awarded additional PTO after completing a major project or the toughest quarter of the year. One year, try announcing to your team that the entire week of Christmas will be a company-wide paid holiday. You’re welcome.
- Quarterly CEO dinner
Depending on the size of your company, one of your top tier rewards could be a paid-for dinner with the CEO. Groups of 10-or-so achievers can all enjoy a luxurious meal and personal conversation with you and feel more invested in your company as a whole.
- Family nights
A surprising number of your staff members value experiences over things. So, why not incentivize them with family-friendly events at the movies, the local amusement park, or the local entertainment arcade? They might appreciate this move even more than they would if they received a physical item personalized to them.
- VIP parking
This creative incentive for employees is entirely contingent upon your company’s parking situation. But if spaces are scarce where you work, awarding your mid-level achievers with VIP parking might just be enough to get them pushing for those goals.
- Event tickets
Local events make great company outings—especially when they’re exclusively tied to your rewards program. Bonus points if the event is a high-powered industry conference that your team normally wouldn’t attend together.
- Surprise giveaways
Near the beginning of a rewards cycle, try holding a week-long competition to see who can make the greatest progress toward their individual goals. Employees who succeed are entered into a raffle to win seriously high-value prizes, with odds that are actually in their favor.
When wages are inflated and benefits are taken for granted, incentives are really the best way to entice employees to stick around at your company. They build healthy competition and community. They inspire engagement, which can lead to greater daily job satisfaction. Best of all, they create a culture of appreciation and respect that will make employees feel intrinsically motivated to stick with you for the long term.
Take the opportunity now to incentivize your employees. Before long, your engagement and retention rates will reveal how meaningful these efforts really are.
At Inproma, we use incentives strategically to boost employee engagement, satisfaction, and retention over the long term. Looking for even more creative incentives for employees? We’d be happy to customize and implement an incentive program based on the ideas you like most. Let’s talk.