How To Create an Incentive Program for Employees

You’re fortunate to have a great team, especially in today’s labor market. You know your company pays well and offers valuable benefits or great incentive pay. In fact, a 2021 survey by WorldatWork found that 51% of privately held company respondents offered some type of long-term incentive plan.

One of the best ways to boost performance is through an incentive program. If the program is well designed and easy to implement, you’ll get better team morale and loyalty without cutting into your revenue. Let’s take a look at how to create an incentive program for employees that provides them with value and increases productivity for you.

Why You Should Have an Incentive Program for Employees

It’s not uncommon for professionals to overlook the importance of employee recognition programs and instead, tie salaries directly to job performance. For example, offering a commission to salespeople who close more deals. However, not all salespeople earn high commissions. In fact, the average salary for a salesperson in retail is $27,320 per year, according to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics.

In many industries, tying salaries directly to sales revenue won’t help attract or keep talented salespeople. Why? Because it creates an environment where employees are too dependent on company performance. In turn, company stakeholders become too dependent on sales performance, creating a stressful environment that can lead to high turnover across departments.

Although paying a commission works as compensation in industries with higher base salaries, such as real estate and advertising sales, creating an incentive program that recognizes employees for going above and beyond expectations can be a valuable addition to any compensation package. In fact, a 2021 survey found that 51% of privately held company respondents offered some type of long-term incentive plan.

Incentives used to motivate employees should align with your company’s goals and your employees’ interests. Find a centralized place to formalize your program so everyone eligible for incentives knows the expectations and can get excited about the rewards you’re offering.

How To Create an Incentive Program for Employees

Now that you know the why behind creating an incentive program for your employees, let’s get into the how.

Get Buy-In From Other Departments

Gaining leadership buy-in at your company is a crucial first step. For a rewards program to be successful, leaders across all departments must understand that recognition plays a significant role in keeping employees engaged. Connect with the leaders at your organization to learn about their goals and objectives. As a team, you’ll want to discuss:

  • Your current budget for incentives
  • Your unique goals and objectives
  • If current incentives effectively motivate employees and reward their performance

Determine How Much the Program Will Cost

The rewards you offer don’t have to be expensive or grand. Giving smaller tokens of appreciation more frequently can create immediate satisfaction, making employees feel valued for going the extra mile in the actual moment.

Keep in mind, your employee incentive program should be both cost effective and time sensitive. Having to leave the office to purchase physical gifts, cards, or meals is disruptive to your workers’ productivity. Ordering a catered lunch for the group can also be time consuming. Ultimately, accessing your rewards should be quick and convenient.

Establish How Incentives Will Be Earned

The rewards you offer don’t have to be expensive or grand. Giving smaller tokens of appreciation more frequently can create immediate satisfaction, When setting parameters, the first step is to establish who you’re rewarding and why. How incentives are earned should be consistent across all departments. Different programs—whether it’s manager incentivization or peer-to-peer recognition—will require different parameters and budgets.

Decide What Incentives Will Be Given

What incentives should you offer? Gift cards are by far the easiest, most flexible option. They’re especially effective because employees know they can redeem them for something they truly want. And, if the gift cards are presented in a personalized, thoughtful way, your employees will know how much you appreciate their service.

Keep in mind, without an established partner to streamline gift card delivery, the process can become very manual. You want to avoid being in a situation where you’re constantly visiting stores to purchase gift cards directly—and figuring out how to securely store them.

Here’s a look at how popular rewards stack up against each other, from cash and merchandise to gift cards and clothing.

Launch Your Rewards Program

Now that you have a plan in place, it’s time to share it. In your company-wide communications, include the reasoning behind the new program and how it works.

For future employees, include the information in their onboarding materials. Your incentive program can be an excellent recruitment tool as well. Let candidates know your company cares about their employees and highlight how your leadership team looks for ways to show their appreciation for excellent work and service.

You’ll also want to stay on top of your reporting to track its effectiveness and to spot any trends. If it turns out that your employees respond well to rewards programs, consider running them monthly or quarterly, making sure to change them up so they don’t get stale. With good reporting, you’ll have an extra tool to find which employees should be next in line for a promotion or raise.

Use Rewards Genius to Send Employee Rewards

If you’re considering gift card incentives, we invite you to learn how our reward solutions can support your employee recognition programs. Enter Rewards Genius, a tool that makes managing incentives easy by allowing you to order, send, and track digital gift cards in one place.

Reward Link is the most popular reward that program managers send in Rewards Genius. It's a web link that employees receive via email. When clicked, it directs them to a global reward catalog filled with 100+ of the most popular gift card brands to choose from.

Ready to see how Rewards Genius can help you improve productivity in a fun, engaging way? Email to talk to one of our representatives about how to create an incentive program for employees with Rewards Genius by Tango Card.

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