In an age when employees are acutely aware of what the competition is offering, it's important to find meaningful ways to incentivize and reward employees for their work.
If you want your team to feel valued and appreciated, recognizing employees once or twice a year simply isn’t enough. Instead, a strategy for ongoing recognition is key. That’s where employee incentives come in.
So what are employee incentive programs, and do they work? Let’s dive in!
What is an employee incentive program?
Employee incentives aim to boost employee engagement and motivation by using the principles of rewards and recognition to drive behavior change.
Traditionally, employee incentive programs focused strictly on sales achievements or major employee milestones, such as years of service award programs. But modern recognition programs are a little bit different.
This is largely because today’s workforce is different. Unlike their older colleagues, millennials and Generation Z workers expect to be recognized on a regular basis. According to a recent Gallup report, 38% of Gen-Zers and 25% of millennials would prefer to receive recognition a few times a week from their supervisor, compared to 16% of baby boomers. For them, work isn’t all about pay — they want to feel valued and supported as well.
That's why modern employee incentive plans reward employees for many types of performance milestones, from booking sales discovery meetings to completing leadership training. In exchange for their hard work, employees earn incentives such as gift cards, experiences, or even charitable donations.
Learn how Cooleaf helps you define a winning strategy for employee incentive awards
Do employee incentive programs really work?
One of the biggest reasons that organizations don’t implement incentives that they doubt the impact of employee incentive programs. Unfortunately, some people think of incentives as “bribes" and incorrectly believe that they lead to entitled, unmotivated employees.
This is a major oversight.
An effective employee incentive program isn’t just about the incentive itself. It's also about creating a positive and creative workplace environment where people feel seen for the work they do.
When paired with a strong employee engagement program, an employee incentive plan will increase employee engagement, drive motivation, and encourage people to perform at their best. In fact, incentive plans have been shown to dramatically increase employee performance. Gallup found a strong link between engagement and performance outcomes, such as retention, productivity, and profitability. With a platform like Cooleaf, companies can create a strategy for employee incentives and employee recognition, so all team members (not just top performers!) are regularly celebrated and engaged in a way that boosts company morale.
Employee incentive programs can be a fun, creative way to reward performance and show your team appreciation in real-time. If you are considering implementing an incentive program for your team, this article will give you a few ideas to get started.
5 Performance Award Ideas to Incentivize Your Team
When used effectively, employee incentives are a win-win: a way for organizations to encourage key behaviors while demonstrating appreciation for their employees. It’s all about encouraging the right actions at the right time.
With modern technology, it’s easy to track key metrics for your business and turn them into performance incentives. From CRMs to project management tools, there are countless opportunities to use data to incentivize your people.
Pro tip: While there’s no set rule around which type of incentives work best, make sure to choose employee incentives that align with your business goals and values. It's crucial that your employees feel rewarded by the program and proud of the recognition they have received. This can help motivate them to keep up their great work!
Here’s 5 ideas for performance awards will help you brainstorm creative ways to regularly recognize your people.
1. Recognize sales team members for making cold calls
Many sales teams offer compensation plans to incentivize for achieving key goals. But those programs often focus only on closed sales. Instead, companies should reward their employees based on different levels of sale progression, from the initial meeting all the way down the sales funnel.
When implementing a sales incentive strategy, be sure to focus on recognizing and rewarding activities that help grow your sales pipeline, like cold calling, sending outreach emails, adding LinkedIn connections, or booking discovery calls. By celebrating your sales team members at every stage of the funnel, you’ll see higher levels of engagement and productivity.
2. Reward new hires for completing onboarding tasks
Starting a new job can be stressful. New hires face numerous challenges, from getting to know teammates to learning new technology! For remote employees, virtual onboarding can be even trickier.
To make employee onboarding more seamless, sync your recognition platform with a project management tool like Trello (which can be used to build employee onboarding boards), and incentivize your new hires for finishing onboarding tasks like watching training videos, setting up their technology, and scheduling 1:1s. Not only will this motivate your new employee to get up to speed quickly, but it will also help them feel appreciated and valued, which is a great way to boost employee retention!
3. Recognize marketing team members for bringing in new leads
Unlike sales teams, marketing teams don’t typically receive commissions. But rewarding marketing activities that impact revenue, such as MQL generation, can help boost your marketing team’s motivation and inspire more focused, KPI-driven marketing campaigns.
Marketing team leaders should consider creating incentives based on lead generation, such as webinar attendance scores (for example, automate rewards for reaching a certain number of webinar attendees), inbound leads, followers, conversions, and other key metrics.
To determine which marketing metrics to incentivize, take a look at your team’s KPIs and how you are tracking progress. If you use a tool like Hubspot to track marketing KPIs, you can build an employee recognition strategy around those metrics with Cooleaf’s points-based incentives. Or, use Cooleaf with Zapier and Trello to recognize marketing task completion like new blog posts, press releases, or social media campaigns.
4. Celebrate customer service team members for closing customer tickets
There’s no doubt that a great customer experience team is essential to a successful business. But providing great service is challenging, and customer service team members often experience some of the highest levels of disengagement and burnout. According to one study, 74% of call center agents are at risk for burnout. And contact centers also have some of the highest turnover rates, ranging between 30-45% (more than twice the average for all other occupations).
Just like sales teams, customer service teams should be regularly rewarded for daily activities like closing tickets, answering calls, or achieving a high CSAT score. With a recognition platform like Cooleaf, you can automate recognition for activities in your help desk software.
5. Incentivize developers, operations team members, and other employees for honing new skills
While it might seem more difficult to incentivize activities that aren’t directly tied to revenue, motivating employees to achieve other goals can also be extremely effective. For example, incentivizing employees to complete learning and development courses or achieve certifications is a simple way to drive positive behaviors and celebrate your team.
The key is to leverage the power of small wins with concrete, measurable goals and recognize progress along the way. Over time, this kind of employee recognition will help to boost productivity and drive winning results!
Pro tip: Don’t forget to encourage your team to cheer one another for professional development accomplishments, sales wins, and everything mentioned on the list above. Celebrating tiny wins together as a team is one of the most powerful ways to improve company culture.
What kind of rewards should I use for an employee incentive program?
When it comes to employee incentive programs, don’t be afraid to think outside of the box. There are dozens of reward options you might consider for your program. Here's a few examples:
- Subscription boxes
- Donations to their favorite charities
- Cash payouts
- Wellness perks, like a spa day or PTO
- Gift cards
There’s no shortage of popular employee benefits your team will love. An effective recognition platform can also help bring a variety of reward options together in one place, making it simple to issue incentives quickly and seamlessly.
Final Tip: It’s OK to start small!
When organizations start planning employee incentive programs for their teams, one of the biggest challenges they face is figuring out where to start. Rather than implementing an incentive program that will benefit their team, they might feel overwhelmed by the decision and put off doing anything at all.
The obvious problem with that is that there are less employees being recognized, which means less employees feeling seen and appreciated!
There’s nothing wrong with starting with a simple reward program that focuses on just a few performance awards. After all, a simple, easy-to-understand incentive program is more likely to be embraced by your team members.
If you need help creating a strategy for your employee incentive program, Cooleaf can help. Learn more about our integrated incentive platform!