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!




Ready, Set, Grow!

motivationWhen the tree is down and the holiday festivities are behind us, you want your sales team to be ready to hit the ground running.  And while every company counts on the consistent high-performers, it’s time to design a plan that will motivate every single person on the team.  Through a fun, goal-oriented culture you can engage the reps, increase morale, and drive the numbers.

Incentives range from a hand-shake, to on-the-spot rewards, or in many cases, to a formal program format with predetermined benchmarks and on-line award redemptions.  Department budgets, size of the team and revenue goals all play a part in determining the best way to customize your incentive program.  But every approach should be creative and considerate of the age, gender and interests of the individuals.  Below are few ideas on how to keep the sales spark alive.

  • Make it personal.  Recognize the employee in person, not through an email.  Make a point to do this in front of peers, customers and/or the company executives.  Get the family involved by sending a note home, or inviting the spouse to a personal “thank-you” lunch with the employee .  Whichever method you choose, don’t keep success a secret!
  • Friendly competition.  Issue points for various selling activities:  number of client calls in a day; increasing the YTD customer pipeline; or signing a new order.  Post the points on a leader board, and at the weekly sales meeting give a gift card to the leader in each category.  Of course, signing a new order would earn a higher value card than increasing the call rate, but this reward system gives every person on the team a chance to win.
  •  King (or Queen) for a day.  Turn over the next sales meeting to the week’s top performer.  Allowing that person to discuss the pipeline report and ask questions about upcoming projects gives them a chance to show their aptitude for understanding the opportunities being discussed and providing peer feedback that the manager can’t offer.
  • Tools of the trade.  The company has likely provided a cell phone and laptop for working on-the-go.  But how about a new tablet for presentations?  or high-end sound-cancelling headphones for the plane ride? or even an activity tracker so these high-energy individuals can feel good at the end of the day about the number of steps they take to make the sale.  The selection of awards can be on display in the sales department, and every month (or quarter) the highest producer can claim his or her prize.

At the end of the day, money is what motivates salespeople and their comp plans already provide for that.  But to keep the momentum throughout the year, it’s important to celebrate the small victories by recognizing the courage and tenacity it takes to be successful.  Whether the recognition is verbal, written or in the form of award merchandise, show your sales team you “get it”!

Employees Want To Chill Out

ac550_imprintAs summer approaches, companies may be looking for ways to motivate and reward employees right at that critical time when many people enter a mid-year slump.  Maybe it’s the long wait between a short Easter break and the next one over Christmas.  Or, the company may have had a sluggish financial start to the year , and making that up seems like a daunting task after what seems like a short breather from the previous end-of-year push.  Whatever the reason, as managers search for creative motivators, this time of year brings lots of great options.

In an effort to encourage activities that renew energy levels during non-working hours, consider offering incentive gifts that inspire backyard fun, family vacations (at home or away) or just an afternoon at the ball park.  Some good options, suited to fit varying corporate budgets, are listed below.

  • Coolers:  From the high end 54 quart steel belted cooler to the humble 6-pack lunch box cooler, nobody has enough.
  • Sport Chairs:  Tripod mini stools, game day event chairs, or folding lounge chairs offer a break from the action.
  • Blankets:  Stadium blankets, travel throws that fold into a pillow for comfort on the plane, and executive picnic blankets keep the outdoors more comfortable.
  • Grilling Tools:  Grill mitts, stainless tool set, and small tailgate grills are essentials for every summer-loving family.
  • Beach/Pool Necessities:  Beach towels, beach bags, and insulated lunch bags all make down-time by the water more enjoyable.

Motivating and rewarding valuable employees shouldn’t happen just at the end of the year.  It should be a practice that is fluid and creative, and executed on a monthly or a quarterly timetable.  As we approach mid-year, consider ways to reward employees with gifts that encourage and inspire the renewed energy levels that will help drive the company towards a successful second half of the year!





Improve Employee Morale – Go Glamping!

glampingAccording to Glamping.com, “Glamping is short for glamorous camping.  It is a way to experience the splendor of the outdoors without forgoing the creature comforts you can’t live without.  Whether in a tent, yurt, airstream or treehouse, it’s camping on a grand scale.”  So, how does this new, hip global trend help us to achieve our very practical business goals?

Whether the goal is to grow sales, recognize employees or improve customer retention, travel and destination experiences rank among the most successful of many different recognition strategies.  And, more than likely, Glamping is a travel experience most of your audience has not undertaken, but would happily embrace.

The options are as endless as the areas of the world we would all like to explore. You can bring your group to Switzerland to explore the Alps and then retire to a dome pitched on a raised wooden platform with organic luxury bedding and full-service bathroom; or fish on Idaho’s Salmon River with the chef preparing stuffed morel mushrooms and braised free-range chicken with fennel puree and blackberry compote served on linen tablecloths with a carefully matched wine; or, if your budget is more modest, associates can enjoy luxury sleeping tents in the mountains of North Georgia without the perk of professionally prepared high cuisine, but with the same reliable service as a top quality bed & breakfast.

Travel incentives have long been drivers of motivational value.  And giving your participants the chance to experience a destination with “WOW” factor is a time-tested way to improve on the results.  Glamping may be just the thing to ignite that feeling!

Non-Cash Incentives Drive Top Sales Performers

NO-50-dollar-bill-340pxIn February, 2013, research from the Aberdeen Group, a Boston based research firm, shows top-performing companies are more likely to motivate their sales teams with non-cash rewards and incentives.   That information supports data in an April, 2012 article in Incentive Magazine that states best-in-class firms were more than twice as likely (21% vs. 10%) to use non-cash incentives as industry average or laggard firms.  The Aberdeen research goes on to show that firms with formal internal sales emplyee recognition programs had 14.8% higher team quota attainment and a 5.9% higher customer renewal rate.

So what types of non-cash rewards are most likely to motivate a company’s sales force?  As is the case with every corporate merchandise purchase aimed at employees or customers, the answer depends on the audience.  A target audience consisting mostly of women prefer home, health and jewelry selections.  A male based demographic is motivated by lifestyle products like backyard grills, technology items and recreational equipment.  Group travel appeals to all participants, and verbal praise, public recognition and peer-to-peer recognition remain important ingredients to a successful incentive program.

Professional incentive management professionals can offer a variety of tools to build a custom program aimed at the sales associates of any company, large or small.  And since the most important members of that sales team are the top performers, it may be time to call your incentive program professional and investigate more compelling non-cash rewards for better sales results at the end of the year.