Maintaining productivity and energy around the office, day after day, is a challenge for any size company. There will be times when all of the pizzazz has been sucked out of the workplace, and everybody seems to be sleepwalking toward some vague point on the horizon. When there is little variety or attempt to keep the workplace fresh and challenging, things can stagnate.

One way to avoid this kind of dark cloud over your business and its workforce is incentives. One of our Twitter followers recommends cake(!), but there are myriad ways to motivate staff and maintain a focus on the goals ahead, provided the right approach is undertaken. One of the most important things to do? Define the Scheme. Before you start mentioning any sort of incentive scheme to the wider workforce, get a good grip on what the nuts and bolts are going to be. Determine what is financially viable, and can be sustained for the foreseeable future.

What will the rewards be?

You must be very clear well in advance of exactly how the implementation will work. What is it that you will be giving to your employees in return for their work? Establish that you will be able to supply what you say you will supply, since there are few more effective methods of killing morale than having people work hard for a certain prize only to be told that it is not there.

Consult with your team about what incentives they would like. Taking their thoughts and suggestions at this point and, within reason, tailoring the incentives to their tastes will result in a program that they really buy into and relish. Don’t assume you know what someone else wants when you can ask firsthand.

Here are the top 5 things employees want and what employers think employees want:

Employees Say They Want

  1. Be fully appreciated for their work
  2. Being in on what’s going on
  3. Sympathetic help on personal matters
  4. Job security
  5. Good pay

Employers Think Employees Want

  1. Good pay
  2. Job security
  3. Promotion and growth opportunity
  4. Good working conditions
  5. Interesting work

Yes, there’s some overlap, but there are also some key differences!

What behaviour are you incentivising?

Clearly define which, if any, areas of your business will be tied to the potential rewards. Perhaps you desperately want to improve your customer relations over the phone, or you need to improve productivity in a certain department. Attaching Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) to these areas, incentivising them, and then looking at the productivity data will most likely lead to improvement. Always make sure that targets are clearly defined and achievable.

Who will be eligible?

It is of the utmost importance that everyone in your business knows exactly what he or she can expect from their hard work. Once upon a time, only certain members of a workforce – say those in a customer-facing, sales position, would see rewards above and beyond their base salary.

Today, with most workplaces keen to foster a spirit of togetherness and fairness, this is not so much the case. Many employees in an organisation may be offered incentives based on their work performance, as good employers recognise that it takes a lot of good people doing good work to make something a success. Decide whether you want to offer individual incentives or team incentives, meaning that reliance on colleagues is tied to how you may (or may not) benefit.

Potential Incentive Programs

The options and avenues that you could take with an incentive program are constrained by your time, budget, imagination and the legal system, of course. Otherwise, the sky is the limit.

A few of the top employee incentive programs spotted recently include:

  1. The ability to work from home

  2. Earning extra paid days off

  3. Wall of fame

  4. Learning and certification opportunities

  5. Non-sales related bonuses

Keep in mind that there are tax benefits for employer and employee alike, for certain programs, and the government backed Enterprise Management Scheme is a brilliant way to implement some incentives.


Once you have defined your scheme, gotten all of the input and rolled it out, ensure that you don’t neglect it. From that first point, monitor how your staff are progressing and if they are showing increases in productivity. If it seems that some members are struggling to meet the prescribed targets, meet with them and ask what they feel needs to be done to facilitate their future success – be willing to move targets if the bar is too high or too low. Getting the scheme right will take time. and might require regular adjustments, but stick with it and it will show you the rewards.

Keep the incentive scheme in the minds of workers, with regular updates in office communications. Having the scheme at the forefront of office activities will, in time, lead to it becoming a fixture of the work environment, making it second nature for everyone to always strive for those lofty targets, rather than mired in a morass of unincentivised labour which can lead to output that is just ‘good enough’.

Incentives are a great way to push your workplace production up a rung and create an atmosphere where employees feel valued and recognised. A ‘well done’ gesture and recognition for a good job is the best motivator there is, one which will only result in a cycle of positive outlook and productivity that benefits everyone concerned.

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