Four Ways to Create Effecitve Incentives – The Hire – Employers


Four ways to create effective Incentives to Reward and Recognize

Welcome to week four of our Talent Optimization series, tips for providing effective incentives to Reward and Recognize. In many organizations, rewards are planned solely in alignment to the organization’s financial goals. While this makes short term business sense, focusing only on dollars will cost eventually. This is because circumventing employee development guarantees a future of high-ticket hires. That is why Rewards and Talent Management professionals must be in lock-step to develop, and keep, top talent.

Formal Incentives are not enough

Formal incentive programs are often tied to the traditional Performance Management processes embedded in most organizations. They are the foundation of total rewards. After all, graduating to the level of formal annual bonuses is a universal rite of passage for corporate employees. But pay and bonus eligibility are no longer enough.

Because we expect to be paid inline with the quality, and quantity, of work we do. That is implicit to the agreement we make with our employers when we accept a position. But when the work quantity, or quality, dramatically increases it is common for rewards and recognition to fall behind. So, what can you do?

In a survey of the US Workforce by the American Psychological Association ONLY 51% of workers said they felt valued by their employer

Informal Incentives are necessary

Informal incentives are a practical approach to employee recognition. There are countless ways to show appreciation. Just remember, these types of rewards should be highly individualized, spontaneous, and sincere. They need not cost a lot, but when delivered correctly and consistently, they can improve performance and morale. Some ideas to consider:

  • Comp days for salaried employees working excessive hours
  • Say “thank you” [in person, in front of others, in email] or give them a public mention in a newsletter or professional social media like LinkedIn
  • Letters of appreciation with copies to the employee’s file and leaders
  • Lunch with top department leader or invites to “higher-level” meetings
  • Offer to be a mentor to an employee OR help them find a great mentor
  • More frequently assign responsibilities the employee enjoys and/or reassign work the employee does not enjoy
  • Give the person more autonomy to determine how the work is completed and/or added staff for project development
  • Supply opportunity for advanced training/attendance at seminars or conferences
  • Allow virtual/remote and/or flexible work schedules
  • Give tickets to local events, restaurants, or send a token to their home

Incentives must be aligned with desired behaviors

Incentives must always be beneficial because people will not perform tasks if they feel the desired behavior is somehow punishing. What does this mean? Imagine the following situation…

Your manager tells you he values nothing more than employees who go the extra mile to help each other out. But whenever you take the time to help out co-workers, you fall behind on your own work and your manager yells at you. So, you stop helping teammates because even though your manager says it is what he wants, you feel punished every time you do it.

The next element of incentive alignment is to recognize that people will perform poorly if inferior performance is rewarding. For example, continuing the earlier example.

If you do not help other teammates, they are less likely to bother you. If they do not interrupt your work, you can always get your work done on time. You can even take on more work. In this case, if individual production is the only thing your manager rewards, your choice is easy. You will be rewarded for NOT being a team player.

The final element of alignment is to consider; when people do the right thing, and do it well, do they get rewarded and recognized for it? Think about your company’s reward system. Does the organization care about and use it? Is the system(s) in place enough and are you, and your colleagues, sufficiently using it?

Delivering Incentives effectively

Situation-Behavior-Impact is a model often used for delivering feedback, that also proves effective when delivering rewards. To demonstrate, to effectively RECOGNIZE someone you should:

  • Describe the Situation and exactly what was done well
    Last Thursday, in the xxx meeting, when we were discussing the new product roadmap…
  • Describe the specific behavior
    …your insightful questions about the development process influenced the team to revise the beta testing to include more robust redundancy reviews with our team…
  • Describe how the Behavior helped the department, company, and/or customer
    …this reinforced our intention to partner with IT across the development cycle, creating trust by showing understanding and engagement.

It is the same when delivering a REWARD, although you many find the acronym moved around a bit…

  • We are awarding you two comp days off, in appreciation for the significant extra effort you put in over the last month (behavior) to ensure we delivered our new product in spite of all of the last minute changes (situation) to market on-time and under budget (impact).

These are some ideas to get you started on the right path when considering your total rewards. Get in touch and we would be happy to help you take a closer look to fully align rewards with your overall talent optimization philosophy.  That way you will be in the best position to attract, hire, and keep top performers. Come back next week when we will close this series with an in-depth look at how Performance Management fits in to your best people strategy.

Lisa Crockett is a leader and professional development coach with more than 20 years of experience in Human Resources, Learning, and Performance. To learn more about her professional career visit her on LinkedIn.

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