What Is An Incentive Program?

stars-shootingAccording to the Incentive Research Foundation (IRF), $77 Billion is being spent by companies annually on non-cash rewards and recognition to motivate and engage their workforces.  Motivating and engaging the workforce,  says IRF, is being done in an effort to make workplace improvements.

But today’s incentive program isn’t aiming to reward a top salesperson with a gold watch and a free trip to Hawaii, and then go back to business as usual.  The incentive industry has grown and matured into a vehicle for companies to improve safety and employee attendance; build customer engagement; and forge more meaningful vendor relations.   And in an effort to remain relevant to both the Gen X and Y employee base, as well as the more seasoned professionals, the various types of incentive programs can be designed to offer the ability to recognize employees in real-time through social media channels, on-line redemption sites and on-the-spot rewards.

Peer-to-peer sharing and shout-outs can be integrated through internal “social recognition” sites.  On-line redemption sites can be viewed on smartphones or tablets, and products can be delivered, or arranged for pickup at partners like Best Buy or Sears.  According to the IRF, the top product categories include electronics, luggage, jewelry and watches.  But staples like fleece pullovers, jackets, hats, coolers and drinkware are still popular with some companies.  Gen Y employees also want to see headphones, Bluetooth speakers and other technology items in their programs.

However, a well-rounded incentive program should also go beyond a gift redemption and offer other perks that my be equally as rewarding for some people.  For instance, a day off for volunteer activity in their community or a weekend getaway with the family would be more important to many employees than a single gift item.  Thinking outside the box, a corporate incentive program might offer a gift package consisting of a yoga mat, gym bag and a month-long pass for free yoga classes at a local studio.

The point is, multiple motivators is the key.  One size does not fit all, and staying fluid in designing, managing and executing an incentive program is the best recipe for success.  Get employees involved in the decision making, be willing to make changes along the way, and above all else – get started!




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