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14 Ways To Use Incentives To Motivate Employees At Large Businesses


Motivating employees, especially when they’re working from home, can be difficult. As a leader in a large business, you may wonder if monetary or other types of incentives could help keep employees working at full capacity, or if they would be ineffective and not worth the cost.


While most people appreciate a bonus or tangible gift, incentives don’t work for every employee. Moreover, teams working for a larger company may feel as if you’re just trying to buy their loyalty. Leveraged properly, though, incentives can help boost both morale and productivity.


1. Focus On Core Aspects Of The Work And Workplace


Your best players probably aren’t motivated by incentives. To keep people motivated, focus on improving the core aspects of the work and workplace. Are there opportunities for advancement, development and training? Is there a strong culture? Challenging work? Recognition programs? These workplace fundamentals will go further to motivate employees than an incentive program could.


2. Understand Group Profiles And Preferences

Incentives are a great way to keep employees motivated. However, incentives that inspire high performance aren’t always monetary. It is important to understand group profiles and what they look for in a job they deem satisfactory. Sometimes it’s got a lot less to do with money than with personal gratification, growth, recognition and creative rewards.


3. Create Versatile Incentive Systems

Companies face two main staffing issues: how to attract top talent and how to keep it. So why not create versatile incentive systems so that employees feel the need to do their best in return? Some ideas include alternative work schedules that fit their needs or paid time off for creative projects. If you want to increase loyalty, make them co-owners in the form of an employee stock ownership plan.


4. Don’t Take Incentives Away Once Given

Tangible incentives should be considered table stakes when creating them. Incentives will provide short-term motivation to workers, but then they become entitlements. If you take them away or don’t continue them, they will probably demotivate employees. If you plan to give employees an incentive, expect to always give them the incentive as a benefit of working with the company.


5. Nurture A Sense Of Purpose And Connection

Offering incentives can be a slippery slope that leads to unintended consequences, such as exacerbating silos, reinforcing an individual versus a team mindset and even decreasing creativity and innovation. A better approach would be to enhance a sense of autonomy, create opportunities to master skills and nurture a sense of purpose and connection. Research done around self-determination theory shows this to be the case.


6. Issue Incentives Consistently And Within Defined Parameters

To ensure that an employee doesn’t feel like a “little fish in a big ocean,” incentives (issued on a consistent basis with a defined set of parameters) are vital for the retention of highly-motivated and talented employees, especially if problem employees receive most of the manager’s time and attention. Otherwise, high-performing employees may become rather lax and unreliable.


7. Align Rewards With Positive Business Behaviors And Results

When you align rewards or incentives with the business behavior and results that support the culture and values of your business, you are more likely to attract and, more importantly, retain your best talent. Consistency is key. One deviation sends a message of distrust and confusion. So, evaluate your incentive plan by gathering candid feedback on impact, expectations and consistency.


8. Don’t Use Incentives As Crutches

Too many organizations use employee incentives as crutches within ineffective working environments or dysfunctional cultures. Incentives should be icing on the cake when everything else is working well. To keep your talent motivated, make your business a great place to work with shared values and vision, trust and support, respect, autonomy and flexibility.


9. Make Sure Employees Value Incentives

It depends on the incentive. Incentives are only as valuable as they are to the employee. If you create arbitrary incentives, they will be meaningless and might actually result in disengagement. Figure out what is meaningful to your employees. Very rarely will it be a blanket incentive, so focus on what matters to your employees. It might be something much simpler than you think.


10. Use Praise To Enhance Incentives And Strengthen Motivation

An incentive can always be a good motivator, but expressing your belief in your employees will go even further. Complimenting and letting your employees know that they matter to your company is more important than any incentive you can give them. Seeking out opportunities to praise and compliment their work creates buy-in and a desire to continue producing well.


11. Hold Your Team Accountable For Earning Their Incentives

Incentivizing employees is a good way to keep motivation and morale high. However, it is important to recognize that employees need to meet their annual metrics so that both parties are rewarded. Doing this, in turn, will create a stronger and more accountable partnership.


12. Ask Employees What Motivates Them

Motivators vary from employee to employee, so while incentives may work for some employees, they will not work for others. Some staff will be motivated intrinsically (internally) while others are motivated extrinsically (externally). The key to creating motivation through incentives is to directly ask employees what motivates them and how they wish to be motivated.


13. Mix Tangible And Intangible Rewards

Incentives are good but have a short shelf life. Chasing monetary rewards alone is not sufficient motivation if softer issues (e.g., a weak team culture; a lack of recognition or respect; no tangible path to growth or development; no defined, fulfilling purpose) are not also considered. By mixing incentives with these intangible elements, the motivation becomes mutually rewarding over a long period of time.


14. Use Incentives For Alignment Rather Than Motivation

Consider incentives as more of an organizational tool than a motivational tool. Incentives are great for the alignment of a team’s purpose and direction. However, motivation is a very personal factor, and that is why broad incentive plans often demonstrate fleeting motivational benefits.

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