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Reaping the Rewards: Tips for Implementing an Effective Employee Incentive Program

October 30, 2014

For some employees, the satisfaction of doing a great job is a reward in and of itself. However, for many companies, implementing a rewards program for employees is necessary in order to maintain employee morale and productivity. While investing time and money to develop and implement an employee incentive program may seem like an inefficient use of resources that detracts from your bottom line, if you look at the big picture, quite the opposite is true.

The cost of unhappy workers to a business can be extremely high. A recent Gallup survey estimates that this kind of unhappiness is costing employers $300 billion annually due to decreased productivity, including more sick days and lackluster operational results. To help you avoid these negative effects, here are a few points to keep in mind when creating a rewards program for your business.

Rewards should appeal to your employees—not just your company leadership. Creating a work environment that boosts happiness, productivity, and morale requires more than a few free doughnuts every now and then. It requires genuine recognition, meaningful feedback, training, and support. However, these things will only improve employee morale so much—after you’ve recognized the efforts and output of your employees, you’ll need to start building an effective rewards program. Doing so will show your employees that there is a system in place that encourages their engagement and productivity with tangible and intangible incentives they value.

Your rewards programs should be customized and tailored to your unique company. Incentives that work for one company might not necessarily work for another, so it’s important that you create a program that fits your company culture and reflects your employees’ interests. For example, if your organization is very health-minded, offering rewards that include a lot of unhealthy foods are not likely to be appealing. Instead, you may want to offer rewards such as free fitness facility memberships or branded company workout gear. In addition to tangible rewards for special achievements, you can also offer employees additional vacation days and the reward of peer recognition by publicly announcing in person or in a company publication the details of their accomplishments.

A key component of any rewards program is measurement. Keeping track of employee progress and who has received rewards is important not only so you know who has performed well, but also because it can actually motivate other staff members to up their game to reap the rewards being offered as well. Leaderboards, periodic email updates, and sharing staff achievements via social media or newsletters can be powerful ways to quantify and publicize the progress or your internal rewards program.

Implementing a solid employee rewards program not only encourages and motivates employees, it can also pay huge dividends in terms of improving productivity, your bottom line, and employee advocacy. If you’re considering offering rewards to your employees, you may also want to involve them in the process of shaping and implementing your incentive program—another easy way to show that you value your employees’ contributions to your company.

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