When looking for memorable ways to reward employees, many CEOs turn immediately to incentive travel. Travel rewards have risen steadily in popularity over the past few years, primarily because employers feel the need to keep up with other companies that are offering meaningful non-monetary incentives. Travel is a top-of-mind solution for most C-suite execs who aren’t familiar with the employee incentives industry.
The problem is, travel programs only reward the top 5% of employees on average at a company—yet they’re expensive enough to cover the entire cost of a full-scale employee rewards program.
According to a recent study from the Incentive Research Foundation, the average per-person cost of corporate travel incentives was $8,151 in 2018, with outlying companies spending over $50,000 per employee. With astronomical costs like this, it’s clear that companies won’t be extending incentive travel to more of their deserving team members any time soon.
If you’re looking for memorable ways to reward your staff, consider successful incentive programs that work even better than travel—solutions that will motivate a far greater percentage of your workforce without breaking the bank. Here are our top four recommendations:
1. Custom uniforms
Especially for teams of customer-facing technicians, custom uniforms can be powerful incentives that tap into each employee’s sense of pride and personal satisfaction. When Comcast rolled out its Pyramid of Excellence incentive program, they had no idea their employees would take to the custom uniforms more than any other rewards item in the catalog. Here’s what their employees had to say:
“I’ve won about 19 PoX rewards. PoX pushes me to make sure my numbers are good and always strive to be the best I can be. When I wear the products, I feel proud of what I’ve accomplished.”
“It gives me a sense of pride because I know I worked that much harder to earn the PoX rewards. I feel proud to wear my gear. My coworkers see me wearing it and can see the results of my work ethic.”
Uniform-based rewards programs help employees develop a greater commitment to your company’s most important metrics. More importantly, these inner feelings of pride last throughout the entire year—not just a few days in June during the annual President’s Club trip.
2. Pop-up shops
Pop-up shops are starting to become even more important for companies following an omnichannel retail strategy—and they can also be used to create memorable rewards experiences for your employees.
We recommend working a pop-up shop into an already-existing employee recognition program as a bonus surprise. Secure small numbers of highly valuable reward items that will only be offered during the pop-up shop, and give employees the chance to earn additional reward “points” or “coupons” leading up to the event that they can use to raffle or “purchase” these items. Give these bonus recognition points for small, everyday actions, and leave the bigger goals to your existing program.
Pop-up shops work really well in tandem with team-building or community-building events, so schedule one during your next company picnic or retreat. You’ll be surprised how much appeal the “limited edition” items have, and how much employees continue to talk about the shop long after the event is over.
3. Peer recognition
Most companies have some sort of recognition program in place, and the vast majority are your standard, traditional, top-down rewards program. Company goals are set by the CEO and individual goals are set by the managers, and employees simply have to “buy in” and cooperate with the program. One of the biggest problems with a traditional rewards scheme is that it completely avoids one of the most valuable sources of recognition imaginable: peers.
Peer recognition should feature prominently as part of any comprehensive employee rewards program. Often, kudos from peers mean infinitely more to employees than even a personal compliment from the CEO—because, in the daily scheme of things, peers actually do matter more to employees.
Give your employees the chance to recognize each other verbally through a specified peer recognition platform. Or consider providing everyone with “Good Job” tickets which they can award to each other and deliver to a manager. On top of the recognition itself, giving a special reward to the employees who both receive and give the most recognition will leave a very positive memory in the minds of your team members.
4. Branded Apparel
Finally, branded apparel is the one incentive category that never seems to lose its luster. Like custom uniforms, custom reward apparel from really high-value brands serves as a powerful form of social currency among team members at all levels. These items are also inherently high-quality because they come from brands that employees know and trust—like Nike, Oakley, Fossil, and The North Face.
The reason branded apparel is such a memorable reward for employees is that it’s evergreen. Every time an employee sports their awarded polo, hoodie, or sunglasses, they have the opportunity to consciously remember their accomplishment and the feeling of reaching their goals. Apparel items also come with bragging rights, because employees will want to know “how did you get that” great-looking jacket.
If you’re looking for a relatively inexpensive way to incentivize your team with high-value items, consider going the route of branded apparel. When you see your employees proudly decked out in their gear, you’ll understand how powerful it can really be.
Travel incentives may be the most popular employee incentive plan today, but it may just be the most commonly known. Other incentive programs do a far better job at incentivizing and rewarding a greater number of employees, which has a far greater impact on overall engagement and retention rates. Before shelling out for an expensive travel incentive partnership, consider launching a well-rounded employee incentive program instead. The improved productivity and morale your team experiences might be enough to create the highest ROI of any incentive system you’ve ever tried.
At Inproma, we’re dedicated to rewarding employees in ways that are meaningful, lasting, and effective. Our recognition and rewards programs incorporate motivating individual goals, high-value reward items, and rewards schedules that are entirely custom to each company’s unique needs. If you’re looking for new ways to reward your employees, let’s talk.