Top 10 Ways to Take Charge of Your Incentive Programs

Designing an effective employee incentive program requires a number of smart tactics.

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A lot of things go into designing an effective incentive program. It is far more than determining the objectives, rules and awards. Managing all the organizational and personal dynamics that support or detract from your campaign goals is something that can easily be forgotten. To deal with these changing elements, look no further than these Top 10 Ways to Take Charge of Your Incentive Programs.

1.   Create a great company to work for. 
Enlist the help of HR or your organizational-development leaders. You cannot motivate or encourage great performance in an organization that is toxic or has a negative culture. Continually work on building positive leadership and exemplary practices that will lay the foundation for incentive programs to work well.

2.   Sell products and services with integrity. 
Always be honest in your dealings with employees, and maintain integrity in the products you make and the services you provide. Make products and design services of which you and your teams can be proud. Developing effective incentive programs is always easier when you have great goods and services to sell.

3.   Manage performance expectations first. 
Always set clear expectations of the desired performance and results. Spell out how you want things done so the desired method affects how and what gets incentivized. Provide ongoing feedback on performance for social reinforcement and so employees know the type of behaviors and results that will be incentivized.

4.   Link incentives to measurable achievements. 
Incentives follow the general rule that if you do X (behavior or results achieved), then you will get Y (reward). Give your employees a clear line of sight on their work outcomes and the overall performance results. Ensure people are being rewarded for how they achieve the results as well as the actual numbers.

5.   Synchronize all your incentive programs. 
Keep an eye on any of the other incentive campaigns occurring within the organization. You never want to undermine the effects of one program because of another one. Better to stagger implementation so you can measure program effects.

6.   Ensure immediate reward delivery. 
Nothing undermines a well-set-up incentive program than not receiving the rewards when staff thought they would. Delayed receipt of incentives damages future motivation to perform well. Focus on on-time distribution of incentives -- online or in person.

7.   Promote your incentive program well. 
You might think you've designed an excellent incentive program. However, if managers and employees don't know how it works, then the program won't work. Promote it through all available communication channels. Consistently communicate.

8.   Educate program know-how to win. 
Show all participating staff the benefits of achieving desired results and the incentives they can earn. Ensure sales managers understand the opportunity employees have and how the program works. Make them ambassadors of your programs.

9.   Capitalize on the prestige factor.  
Incentives rarely surpass the prestige and pedestal effect of exceptional recognition. Have the president or CEO present the reward. Have an event to bring winners up on stage at a conference. Give them an outstanding ongoing education opportunity.

10. Offer purposeful and personalized incentives. 
Employees from the younger generations tend to be more motivated by purpose and meaning in their work. Work to customize your incentives to the different employee demographics and the personal wishes of your employees.

Incentive columnist Roy Saunderson is the author of Giving the Real Recognition Way. The Vistance Institute chief learning officer at Rideau Inc, Saunderson provides consulting, learning and thought-leadership services focused on helping leaders and managers give real recognition the right way. He can be reached at [email protected] and followed on Twitter and at his blog.