Incentive and recognition programs have the ability to significantly improve the relationship between an organization and its employees. These programs help establish trust within teams, build and deepen relationships and create the foundation of alignment and commitment. At a time when more and more employees are becoming disengaged, now is the time to consider incentive and recognition programs to help your employees feel fulfilled and recognized for their contributions.
But not all incentive and recognition programs have the same impact. These programs must be properly designed and executed to achieve the outcomes you desire, like motivating your team, creating a culture of fairness and, ultimately, working as a group toward achieving your organizational goals. Subpar programs will tarnish your relationships with your employees, decrease employee trust and negatively impact your culture.
So, how do you ensure your incentive and recognition program will be successful in creating a culture of fairness? Effective rewards programs should include the following:
- Enhanced program design;
- Increased communication; and
- Flawless execution.
The first step to creating a fair incentive rewards program is to include your participants in the planning process. When employees feel like they are involved in the early stages, they will be the biggest champions for the program. There are two ways you can include participants: when you create the rewards mix and when you create the program platform.
Do you know what your employees need to be successful? Are they motivated by merchandise like gift cards or event tickets? Would they rally around the idea of a group incentive travel trip for high performers or enjoy an individualized travel experience?
Teams place a high value on non-cash rewards. Employees like the idea of incentive travel that allows them to take part in luxurious experiences they couldn’t easily attain on their own. These moments create the memories that employees treasure for a lifetime. Cash rewards can’t do that.
Understanding what motivates your participants is paramount to the success of the program, and creating a program that inspires behavioral change in your employees is both an art and a science. There’s no one-size-fits-all approach to recognition. Chances are, your employees are different ages and come from a variety of backgrounds. What motivates one employee may not motivate another.
Employees want choices. They want to be able to customize their rewards. By taking these needs into consideration and offering a flexible rewards mix, you can match the person with the reward that motivates them the most, thereby creating an inclusive culture.
Technology is critical to designing an effective employee rewards program that keeps participants motivated, engaged and feeling rewarded. We all desire technology that is quick, responsive and useful. The same applies to the technology that you use for your employee rewards programs. You don’t want to lose participants simply because the platform is frustrating. That’s why it’s critical to apply a user-centered approach to your incentive program technology.
It’s easy to make assumptions. We assume we know how our employees want to navigate a website. We assume we know how they use their phones to make their jobs easier. But we don’t really know until we ask.
By implementing a user-centered design, you are putting the needs of your employees first. To get started, you must involve your employees throughout the design process. The insight gathered will create a technology experience that is truly centered around your employees, which builds trust and engagement along the way.
A secret incentive program will never be a successful one. Communication throughout the program will ensure your employees understand the key metrics they are working toward and how they can contribute to the overall goal. Transparency is key to helping employees understand how a rewards program is fairly implemented and executed. This means you must clearly and consistently explain how rewards are granted, awarded and distributed.
Using a variety of communication tools is important to reach all employees and keep them engaged. We’ve used a multipronged approach with great success. This included mailing printed materials that encouraged participants to visit a website dedicated to the incentive program. We replicated the printed material into digital forms of communication and email blasts. Then, we followed up with text messages or a gamification component to encourage sustained participation.
After you announce the program, your work isn’t done. This communication should continue at all phases of the program to keep your employees engaged. Continue to remind your employees about the program parameters and metrics to help them remember what they are working toward. After you’ve distributed rewards, communicate with those employees to ensure they know why they received the reward to encourage repeat behavior.
Finally, do what you say you are going to do. Your employees will lose trust in the program and become disengaged if they don’t see the incentive program executed in the way you communicated. Disengagement among employees is a concern, with Gallup reporting that 68.5% of the U.S. workforce is disengaged. Discretionary rewards and bonuses don’t motivate employees. Employees must understand what they need to do to get that reward, and they must see the fruits of their labor in the end.
Incentive and recognition programs are wonderful ways to improve the relationship between you and your employees. In order for any program to be successful, employees must trust that the program will be fair and worth their time. Including your employees in the decision-making process, communicating with your employees throughout the process and flawlessly executing the program is key to your program’s success.
Nicole Neal is director, Employee Xperience, at One10.
Richelle Taylor is vice president, Strategic Marketing, at One10.