Five Steps to a Successful Incentive Programme

How to create engaging workplace incentives that impact everyone

People are integral to the prosperity of every business, and making them feel appreciated and valued should be an essential part of every organisation's culture. This is where incentive programmes come in.

It takes more than just pay, working conditions, appraisals and training programmes to motivate staff. Recognising them for their hard work and commitment to the business is a key to keeping people happy. And, of course, happy employees and a successful workplace culture mean reduced turnover, boosted morale and loyalty, and improved daily performance!

This short guide will take you through the key steps you'll need to go through to implement a successful incentive programme. If you have any questions at all, please don't hesitate to get in touch with us to ask our incentive and recognition experts!

1. Define objectives

The first priority is to identify the objectives for your programme, whether it's reduced absenteeism, increased productivity, or an improvement in employee engagement and happiness. It may also help to distinguish your objectives between the benefits to the business and the benefits to the staff.

You should also consider when the best time is to start your programme– it may be that the beginning of the financial year would suit the Finance department, but does it suit your current projects and long-term objectives? There may be some great opportunities for seasonal programmes that can really engage employees during times of the year where this can otherwise be a problem - keeping people on task during the festive season, for example.

Finally, as part of your objectives and strategy, you need to decide on your audience. Will the whole company be incentivised, or would it be more efficient to target selected employees for a specific measurable task? Both have their benefirs - the former allows you to communicate with and engage the entire organisation on the same level, while the latter can be essential for really targeted efforts to increase performance in certain areas.

Always ask yourself what you want to achieve, and why you want to do it - that will see you off to a great start!

2. Create a business case

Once your objectives are in place, it’s vital to get buy-in from the board so that budget can be allocated, and the only way to do this is to have a robust business case. Many organisations will have a habit of putting profits before people, so even if the benefits to staff wellbeing and morale are undeniable, it may struggle to get off the ground it it makes too much of a dent into annual earnings.

You need to ensure that you are aware of the financial benefits and what the return on investment (ROI) would look like for your company – remember, these need not be purely financial. A reduction in staff turnover or an increase in positive responses to customer satisfaction surveys are also good selling points.

While bonuses and commissions are appreciated, it's often the non-financial incentives that make the difference to an employee's experience and opinion of a company. These could include awards, extra annual leave, gifts, social events, and the use of a company car.

Not only do rewards like this give staff a little something extra, it also contributes to a fantastic workplace culture - one that celebrates success publicly and often, one that encourages people to get to know each other, and one that incorporates more than a little bit of fun into the daily grind!

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3. Communicate and consult

It’s no good having an efficient incentive programme unless you communicate it. That means talking to your employees about how the scheme works, the choices available, and how best to enjoy them.

Communication is key in ensuring your programme is successful. However, 45% of organisations find it to be the biggest challenge due to the number of employees, geographic spread of locations, and staff demographics.

It's important to communicate with your employees on a regularly basis, across multiple channels and media such as notice boards, company intranet, SMS, posters, emails, or newsletters. It is also worth consulting the relevant Trade Unions to ensure all elements of your programme are equal, above board and accessible to all.

Incenttives need to be simple and easy to understand, otherwise people won't engage with them. A lot of this comes down to making sure they're communicated to employees in a way that makes sense, and that people are on hand to answer any questions, with consistent reminders to make sure that people don't forget all about them a week later.

4. Keep it personal

One of the first challenges that many companies face when motivating staff is choosing the most effective incentive mechanism. There’s not much point in choosing one incentive for the entire workforce, as you’re never going to appeal to everyone. What one person may love, another may not find motivating or valuable at all. 

Differences can be down to demographic (age, gender, etc.), job role, and even just personal taste - so it's important to make sure there's an element of personalisation to ensure there's something for everyone.

Also, involving staff in the incentive selection process will improve participation and take-up of your scheme. One idea is to let staff select their own incentives – this can be from a predetermined list that's tailored to the participants’ interests. Gift cards, e-codes and vouchers are often the most popular rewards for incentive and recognition programmes, as they can provide a great deal of choice and freedom in how and where people use their reward.

Targets should also be personalised where possible, ideally based on job specifications and responsibilities. First, allocate individuals with a goal, followed by the whole team - that way all levels of staff are motivated, and the targets they're aiming for become achievable and relevant.

5. Measure and evaluate

Above all, an incentive scheme must offer ROI for your business. But our research shows that measuring the impact of an incentive programme is one of the top challenges for 63% of organisations. How do you do it?

Start by looking back to the beginning of the programme, and evaluate whether the original objectives were achieved. Having key performance measures in place and routinely evaluating them can help to calculate this. Performance indicators will vary depedning on each programme's objectives, but can include measures such as staff turnover, absenteeism, employee engagement, and satisfaction.

Some of these factors are slightly more objective than others - you could try using staff surveys to measure staff satisfaction, and compare results over the course of a year.

Monitoring the programme throughout the year is important to identify peaks and troughs in both take-up and performance, which allows you to adjust the level of communication or managerial input where needed. It's also vital to regularly seek feedback from employees so they feel involved, and are motivated by the prospect that the programme will reflect their interests.

If you'd like to know more about incentive and reward, as well as our top tips for ensuring excellent ROI in even the most difficult of financial climates, take a look at our free ebook below.

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