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Creating an Employee Incentive Program Based on Motivation

As discussed in our post on The Psychology Behind Motivation & Performance Improvement Programs, people are influenced by a variety of motivational factors and each person is driven to achievement for different reasons. There is a misconception that money is often the strongest driver for motivating employees, but additional compensation isn’t always the most effective driver and financial targets may not be the best way to motivate your sales force. Engaging, recognizing, and rewarding your employees for their effort and achievements is vital to performance improvement and your company’s short and long-term growth.

Two co-workers exchanging a high-five while working at desk | Global agency, BCD Meetings & Events

Ways to incentivize employee performance

So, if financial motivation isn’t the best way to empower employees to action, what are other ways to build programs that reach beyond just those sales qualifiers to move an organization’s entire workforce? Here, we explore creative ways to reward employees and create a 360-degree incentive program that really works.

A rewards program that encompasses a complete suite of engagement tools that align your company’s strategies, goals and objectives with its employees will is the foundation of a success. Consider the flowing:

  • Sales Incentives
  • Service Awards
  • Peer to Peer Recognition
  • Productivity Incentives
  • Safety Programs
  • Improving Customer Satisfaction Measures
  • Direct Communications via Social Feed Integration
  • Complete Program Visibility via Administration Tool

ASPIRE Performance Improvement Programs from The Collective by BCD M&E | Global Agency, BCD Meetings & Events

Tangible Rewards Create Superior Results Over Cash

When thinking about the concept of incentives, companies often turn to cash rewards. It’s easy to assume that money is the method of choice when looking to motivate and reward employees who meet or exceed company goals, especially when those goals are financially focused in nature. But before jumping to that conclusion it’s important to recall one of the initial principles we discussed in the beginning of this piece: people are motivated by different things and for different reasons. Remember that money may not always be the best way to drive results. Monetary compensation is one way to motivate, but the effects can wear off quickly for a few reasons.

  1. Cash rewards are short-term motivators that can focus motivation initially, but participants’ motivation can stall once they earn enough money to support their lifestyle comfort level.
  2. It is easily confused with compensation. Sometimes monetary rewards can be viewed as an entitlement rather than as a supplementary reward for excellent performance.
  3. Bragging rights don’t accompany monetary gains. Our culture discourages people from talking about personal income or net worth. For people who are motivated by being able to display their rewards, cash doesn’t fulfill that desire.
  4. It can be a difficult reward to promote because money holds different meanings and value to everyone. Someone who may value vacation time or other tangible or intangible incentives more than additional income won’t connect emotionally to a monetary reward.

There are a host of other creative tangible rewards that can be utilized to change behavior long term, meet company goals, and reward employees for doing their best to achieve or exceed them. Some types of alternatives to consider include incentive trips and retreats, personalized gifts and merchandise, or additional time off or vacation.

But what makes these types of tangible rewards superior to cash?

  1. These types of rewards can focus performance particularly well when you give people a choice on what they want most. When participants can select the rewards they want, they can focus on the desired behavior or results necessary to achieve that reward and are more likely to work harder to earn it.
  2. These rewards are distinct from compensation and are perceived as an “extra” rather than an expectation.
  3. They can hold a high trophy value and give something for participants to talk about long term. An extra $5,000 bonus at the end of the year is nice, but so is a 4-day all expenses trip to the Bahamas. The trip itself holds value, but the memories and experience of the reward do as well and give something for participants to talk about for years to come.
  4. These rewards are flexible. They can be increased or decreased as business environments or needs change.
  5. They are easy to promote. Tangible rewards outside of cash are visible symbol that make it easy to capture attention and maintain participant engagement.

Combining tangible and intangible rewards can boost performance as well

Although receiving tangible rewards can be strong motivators, coupling them with intangible rewards that positively impact the overall culture of the workplace or team dynamics can be powerful motivators over time as well.

Employee engagement is one of the most crucial factors of company performance. Your team’s thoughts, beliefs and feelings about their work, your team, and the organization are huge drivers in motivation and by default—success or failure. Often these thoughts are formed by factors outside of compensation and there are several small but powerful intangible tools you can leverage alongside physical rewards to boost performance and engagement.


  • Be A Good Listener – It may sound simple but taking the time to listen to your team and their concerns, feedback, suggestions, or ideas will make them feel recognized, appreciated, and happy. You can also use this feedback to improve your business or the rewards—tangible or intangible—to motivate employees to continue improving themselves and achieving their goals to benefit themselves and the business.
  • Offer Verbal or Written Recognition – Sometimes the little things can carry the most weight. Taking time to personally recognize people’s efforts through a public shoutout on a company intranet, a personal email, or a written thank you note can go a long way in making people feel valued and recognized, which can fuel them to continue to be great team assets.
  • Spend Time Getting to Know Employees – Taking the time to get to know team members outside of their day to day functions is a great way to build trust, loyalty, and strong working relationships. But it is also a way to learn what motivates people and then utilize that knowledge to reward and recognize people in the ways that benefit them the most.

By taking the time to really get to know your workforce, the psychological motivators behind their needs, and give autonomy in reward format, you can build a rewards program that meaningfully impacts your workforce. When employees are motivated and committed to their purpose and rewarded effectively for their dedication, you can move business forward and maintain a culture that inspires achievement and success for everyone.

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Originally published Jul 2, 2021 12:56:54 PM
Last updated on Apr 6, 2023 4:27:43 PM

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Written by BCD Meetings & Events


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