How Employee Incentive Programs Can Help Companies Attract and Retain Staff

According to a new IRF study, incentives have an important role to play during the current labor shortage. 

Photo Credit: BreizhAtao/Adobe Stock

As the U.S. continues to face a tight labor market, a new study by the Incentive Research Foundation reveals how incentive programs can positively affect a company's ability to attract and retain employees. 

For the paper, titled Incentives in Today’s Decentralized Workforce: Attract, Retain & Build Culture, the IRF surveyed 1,000 employees and managers to learn their preferences about remote and hybrid work, reward and recognition methods, and employee motivation. The research, which was detailed during the IRF Education Invitational event reveals employee expectations, manager mindsets, and how good recognition and incentive program design can enhance employee engagement.

"Incentives have an important role to play motivating direct and indirect employees in the era of the Great Resignation, remote work and labor shortages," noted IRF president Stephanie Harris. "The workforce has fundamentally changed, and incentive program design needs to be adapted to align with these new workforce realities."

Key findings and insights from the study include the following:

  • Managers matter: One-to-one appreciation from a direct manager is the most motivating form of recognition, according to respondents.
  • Peer-to-peer programs work: Praise on a peer-to-peer recognition platform can enhance engagement and address isolation many remote workers feel.
  • Engagement and career paths are important:  Employees want interesting work, growth opportunities and autonomy.
  • Tangible rewards motivate: Employees want cash, gift cards, gifts, points and individual travel.
  • Keep work culture in mind: Incentive program designers should partner with human resources and senior leaders to combine incentives with workplace environment changes that mitigate the disadvantages of working remotely.

The full report can be downloaded from the IRF website.