8 Innovative Employee Incentive Program Ideas

A big part of running an organization or being a manager is finding ways to motivate and engage employees. Keeping morale and spirits high is an essential ingredient of a healthy, vibrant, and energized workforce. Incentive programs—rewards and benefits to incentivise employees—can have a huge impact on morale and performance. According to a NectarHR survey, 77.9% of employees would be more productive if they received more recognition.

Knowing how to incentivize employees is key to success. If that’s something you struggle with, don’t worry. In today’s blog, we’re going to cover everything you need to know about incentive programs—including what they are, the benefits, and eight fun employee incentive ideas to get you started.

What are Employee Incentives?

First, let’s start by answering the main question—what are employee incentives? On a basic level, employee incentives are rewards or benefits that are designed to entice employees to do their best. These corporate incentive programs can come in all shapes and sizes. For example, your incentives might be more traditional, like offering gift cards to employees who reach a sales benchmark. Or they might be a bit more modern, like giving high performing employees the freedom to work how and where they want.

The end goal is the same however—offering incentives so employees are motivated and dedicated to do their best. These programs can bring out the best in employees and teams, which is why it’s important to have plenty of employee incentive ideas.

Benefits of Employee Incentive Programs

Before moving on to some fun employee incentive ideas, it’s important to understand the benefits of incentivizing employees.

Increased productivity. People work harder and faster when there’s a reward waiting at the end. It’s no different than having a cool glass of lemonade waiting for you after a day of yard work.

Decreased turnover. It shouldn’t be a surprise that incentive programs can increase retention. When employees feel like they are being recognized and rewarded for their hard work, they feel more valued and are less likely to leave.

Happier employees. Again, employees want to feel appreciated, and incentive programs can accomplish that through recognition and rewards.

Easier recruiting. Incentives make attracting top-talent easier as well. Potential employees are much likely to be attracted to your organization and sign on when there are clear benefits for their hard work and dedication.

Fun Employee Incentive Ideas

Now that you know the benefits, the next step is to look at some employee incentive program examples. These employee incentive ideas will help you get an idea of what these programs can look like so you can start thinking about how to implement them in your organization.

When choosing incentives, remember to keep your employees and their preferences in mind. Not all employees will enjoy the same incentives and rewards, so don’t forget to think about what they would prefer most. For example, some employees love public acknowledgment while others dislike it. Some employees would be elated to have career advancement opportunities, and others may prefer work-life balance benefits.

Point being, don’t forget that these incentives are for your employees. Let their tastes and preferences guide your incentives, and don’t be afraid to ask them directly what kind of rewards they would like.

Financial Incentives

A widely popular choice, financial incentives focus on monetary rewards for employees’ work, offering a direct benefit for their successes. This includes things like bonuses, profit sharing, stock shares, sales commission, and more. Though simple, the saying, “money is the greatest motivator,” is often true. So don’t underestimate the effectiveness of financial incentives.

That said, money isn’t enough to sway everyone. Many employees are satisfied with their finances and would prefer other incentives, such as recognition or more flexibility.

Recognition & Rewards

peer recognition

Recognition and rewards are one of the most commonly used incentives, and it has stood the test of time as being an effective motivator. Individualized recognition, such as employee of the month or work anniversaries, are a superb way of incentivizing employees to work hard and do their best. Most people love getting recognized for their work, and these incentives accomplish exactly that.

Recognition and rewards can also come in the form of group recognition, like celebrating a team or department for achieving a goal or milestone. This can be just as effective as individualized recognition too, as it motivates an entire group of employees to work together.

Work Preferences

Another option for workplace incentive programs are work preference-based incentives. These incentives are about giving high-performing employees the ability to have more control over what they want to work on or learn.

To be clear, that doesn’t mean giving employees carte blanche to do as they please. Rather, it just means giving them some extra freedom in choosing what they want to do. For example, say a higher-performing sales employee wants to learn more about marketing. Giving them the freedom to make that decision and dedicate some time to that learning process can be a great incentive.

Another example is an employee who would prefer to work on a specific type of project that suits their skill set. Giving them the freedom to choose their projects if they reach a certain goal or quota is an effective motivator.

Career Advancement Opportunities

Employees don’t like feeling trapped or stuck in their job, and career advancement incentives are a great way to prevent that. By offering career advancement opportunities to employees as an incentive, you can encourage them to do their best and work toward a goal.

These opportunities can include everything from promotion and mentorship programs to professional development programs. For example, an event like Effective Communication Skills could be an opportunity offered to those who reach a certain benchmark. Offering career advancement opportunities helps both employees and their organization as a whole, making it one of the best employee incentive ideas. So consider using advancement opportunities as an incentive for your employees.

Work-Life Balance Incentives

Work-life balance has become a much bigger talking point in recent years, especially with younger generations of employees. Because of that, incentives that support work-life balance are often incredibly effective.

One common implementation of this is offering extra PTO for employees who reach a goal. It can be surprising how much a couple of PTO days can motivate employees and get them excited about working. Other options include flexible work hours/hybrid work for high-performing employees, sabbaticals, and more. All of these encourage employees to do their best by offering them a better work-life balance.

Health & Wellness Programs

Health & wellness programs have also become one of the more popular employee incentive ideas lately. Employees care more and more about their own health & wellness, which can make these a perfect incentive.

An Employee Wellbeing Program is a great incentive for employees looking to maintain mental and physical wellness, in turn motivating them to be dedicated and engaged at work. Gym memberships are a good option as well. Offering gym memberships to employees who keep up a certain quota or standard can encourage them to work harder and keep up with their own wellbeing, benefiting businesses and employees.

Gift & Experiential Rewards

For a more traditional approach, you can consider using gifts and experiential rewards. These offer a more direct reward for achieving goals, milestones, etc, by offering more tangible gifts and rewards.

This can include things like gift cards or travel/vacation packages for top-performing teams or employees. Oftentimes, these are the best incentives for employees who are not motivated by less direct incentives like work-life balance or wellness initiatives. Employee rewards programs also fit here as well. These programs can utilize a reward structure to provide incentives for achieving certain goals, while also making it easy to keep track of their progress.

Team-Based Incentives

Ultimate Tailgate Challenge

Lastly, you can also consider using team-based incentives. These focus on rewarding teams or departments as a whole, incentivizing them to communicate, collaborate, and use their strengths as a team to do their best.

There are lots of options here, such as team building outings. Virtual Happy Hour or the Ultimate Tailgate Challenge are fun events that can be an incredibly effective motivator. Plus, they can help bring your team together and improve their skills at the same time.

Team building events aren’t your only choice here however. There are tons of ways to reward an entire team, such as office parties or a team day-off to reward their efforts. Regardless of what you decide, team incentives are one of the most popular employee incentive ideas for a reason.

Launch Your Employee Incentive Program

Motivating employees is incredibly important if you want your employees and teams to be performing at their best. Having an employee incentive plan is arguably the most effective way to do so, and there are tons of options depending on your employees and their preferences. Employee incentives not only motivate employees, but they offer benefits for your organization as well. They can boost morale, engagement, retention, and more. This makes them an essential tool for businesses to utilize.

Creating and implementing incentives can be a challenge though. Thankfully, TeamBonding has a suite of events that are uniquely designed to be great incentives and rewards for employees. These events can motivate employees while also helping bring teams together.

Take the lead and launch your employee incentive program today with the help of TeamBonding. Just get in touch with us today, and we’ll help you get started.

Camille VanBuskirk

Team Contributor

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