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!




Create A Successful Incentive Program In Six Steps

carrotIncentive programs are essential drivers of employee motivation, loyalty and morale.  Regardless of the size of the company or the budget, successful incentive programs will recognize outstanding employees; make good employees great, and give the lowest performers the opportunity to become more focused on skills improvement and positive results.  These programs can be structured for a company-wide audience intended to boost employee morale or improve the customer experience – or they can be designed to target just one department that may be working on a time-sensitive project that requires long hours and razor sharp focus.

In any case, getting started can be the most difficult part of creating a successful incentive  program.  Beginning with a simple outline will help the conversation get started.

  1. Set Your Goals:   Figure out what you hope to achieve when the program ends.   You may want to increase warehouse productivity, improve safety or simply reduce the amount of time your call-in customers are kept on “hold”.   You can have more than one goal, and most likely you will have different goals for each group of participants.
  2. Determine How You Will Measure ROI:    A variety of metrics can be employed, such as number of packages shipped, monthly sales, lost-time accidents, etc.   Decide how you will measure the results, and assign someone to manage that data.
  3. Decide The Budget:    You need a budget for the entire program, and a breakdown of how that budget will be spent over the course of the program. For example, $20,000 for the whole program budget; $4000 disbursed quarterly; and the balance allocated to the top achievers at the end of the year.
  4. Select Award Items:    Premium merchandise, customized items and possibly travel are all options for outstanding programs.   The best programs avoid cash or gift cards so that the rewards become individual goals that each person identifies, such as a gas grill, TV or weekend getaway (for the larger programs) – or brand-name apparel, sports gear or the newest small tech gadget (for the smaller budgets).
  5. Launch The Program Loudly!   Create excitement with an employee kickoff meeting and a low-cost giveaway (pen, mug, phone decal, etc) printed with the company logo and program message.   Keep the message alive with emails, posters, and follow-up small gift reminders.
  6. Build The Buzz!    Engage everyone as often as possible.  Announce monthly winners; post daily or weekly figures on how close you are to the goal; keep up the email communication with program reminders.

There are many industry polls and statistics that prove how well incentive programs work to motivate employees.   Now that we are at the beginning a of a new year, with new goals and challenges, choose to lay the groundwork for a successful incentive program and enjoy the rewards that will follow.  Six steps will get you started!

Product Safety And Sustainability

gogglesSafety and sustainability will continue to grow in importance when considering promotional product options,  and an argument can be made that these issues should carry as much significance for the buyers as the merchandise budget.  Promotional product vendor partners have an obligation to proactively address the issues of safety and compliance before presenting product options for client consideration – and at the same time should continue to promote products and practices that support environmental stewardship.

To help with the issue of product safety, the promotional products industry can look to the Quality Certification Alliance (QCA), “… an independent, accreditation organization whose mission is to elevate the standards by which industry firms that import and/or manufacture promotional products provide consistently safe, high-quality, socially compliant and environmentally conscientious merchandise.”  Recalls and product safety issues could damage the brand image, and worse, potentially harm the recipient.  Knowing and supporting the product suppliers that comply with established safety standards is a best practice that will protect both the company brand and the customer.

Regarding the growing demand for more earth-friendly products, there are many ways for the promotional product vendor, and corporate customer, to do more while maintaining its focus on strengthening the brand identity.  Reducing energy consumption and recycling paper in the office are always a good place to start.  But it’s not difficult to go further by using branded products made from recycled materials, requesting biodegradable eco-friendly packaging materials, and finding printers that use water and soy based inks for screenprinting.  In some cases, the cost may be a bit higher, but the long-term gains in a healthier planet, as well as the appreciation from the educated, eco-conscious consumer, will pay dividends that may not have been considered.

Safety and sustainability are easy issues to support during a casual conversation or in a well-drafted mission statement.  But as more consumers begin to question the impact of corporate give-aways on their planet and in their homes, it may be time to incorporate that discussion during the next meeting with your promotional products provider.