Most incentive programs operate on the assumption that everybody wants the same things: cash, gifts, free vacations, stock options, etc. Companies who buy into this assumption offer the same incentives for everyone across the entire enterprise, from warehouse workers to VPs—and then wonder why they’re not getting very good results.
The truth is, an incentive program needs to differentiate in order to be successful. You don’t have to offer unique rewards for each individual, but you do need to structure your program so that incentives and goals differ between major teams at your company. There’s a distinct difference between motivating laborers versus clerical workers, for example. Your incentive program must allow for that difference.
The following types of incentives work in unique ways depending on which group you’re trying to motivate. From branded apparel to promotional products to company stores, figure out what works for your employees. In the end, when you create a targeted incentive program based on what people really want, you give your employees something even greater: meaningful recognition.
Incentives That Can Be Used to Motivate Employees
1. Branded Apparel
First, we’ll take a look at branded apparel—the easiest and perhaps most surprising incentive you could leverage. You might not think that apparel branded with your program logo would make any difference to employees. But these rewards carry far more weight than you’d think. At face value, a jacket with a logo is just another piece of clothing. But to an employee who’s worked hard for that distinction, that jacket carries a high value when it comes to bragging rights. Think about the green jacket in golf. It is, arguably, the most coveted prize in all of golf.
If you have a green jacket, you’re either a member of one of the most prestigious golf clubs in the world or, even better, a Masters champion.
Companies like Comcast are taking advantage of the branded apparel approach to reward teams that are more on the “laborer” side of operations. Their technicians wear their earned gear with pride. They love that the gear makes them stand out among their peers and that others ask about their branded apparel and how they got it. Branded apparel rewards make employees proud to put on their uniform every day—and there’s no better intrinsic motivator than well-earned pride.
2. Promotional Products
Another valuable type of incentive is promotional products. Most of the time, when we think of this category of gifts, we’re talking about free giveaways, swag bags, or other low-value combinations of items. Pens, tote bags, stress balls, etc. These small items are great for customer outreach—but high-value products by big-name brands can be used in the same way to motivate employees.
Branded apparel may or may not work as well for the clerical workers in your business. They spend most of their time behind a desk, in a cubicle, or on the sales floor, and don’t see much value in being a walking advertisement for your program. Instead, these types of employees tend to appreciate branded merchandise that carries more of a social recognition component. Think YETI coolers, portable Bose speakers, or high-dollar Oakleys. These types of incentives work really well for office employees because they’re rich in social currency.
3. Company Stores
Finally, if you’re looking for a way to reward your upper-level employees, you might find that these teams prefer the flexibility of a company store. You can safely assume that your highest performing employees can afford to buy themselves whatever gadgets they want. They’re already going on drool-worthy vacations every year. To actually incentivize this group, you need to find a meaningful way to tap into their sense of individuality and autonomy.
Upper-level employees are more likely to be impressed by you not assuming you know what every individual wants. By implementing a company store full of unique high-value items, you’re incentivizing your employees by giving them a sense of independence from “the system.” They have the freedom to choose a gift that really inspires them. And by recognizing their hard work within the scope of a well-designed incentive program, you’re enabling them to make that choice.
At the end of the day, it all comes down to recognition. Every individual on your payroll wants to be recognized for the hard work they put in every single day. They want to feel appreciated for their role at your company. Companies who implement successful incentive programs know this and understand that it takes something a little different for each group of employees to feel motivated and inspired.
The three types of incentives above can all be the basis of a really fantastic incentive program. It all depends on what your employees value most. Are they looking for bragging rights, Insta-worthy gifts, or a deeper sense of independence? Answering those questions will help you craft an incentive program that actually improves engagement and motivates employees at all levels of your company.
Not every CEO has the bandwidth to design and implement a killer incentive program. That’s where Inproma comes in. We’re experts at crafting employee rewards programs that boost morale, improve productivity, and pay for themselves in ROI. Interested in letting the experts take over? Let’s talk.