Performance Rewards: Keep Your Team Happy and Increase Your Bottom Line


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Training employees takes time, money, and energy. There is nothing worse than spending months training a tech in the ins and outs of customer service only to have your competition steal that tech away.

If you’ve not tried incentives for good performance with your employees, now is the time to consider it. Not only will receiving a bonus keep your hardest working team members happy, it can motivate new members to work harder for you and your company’s bottom line.

How Performance Rewards Work
How you define performance may be different than how the donut shop owner down the street defines performance. The first step is to figure out what you want to achieve from your employees. For example, if there is a lot of bickering and miscommunication that is causing issues, then you may want to award employees for finding ways to work together.

Here are a few types of performance awards:

  • Good customer service feedback
  • Finishing jobs in a time frame (be careful as this one can backfire; you don’t want techs rushing through a job and making mistakes)
  • Working with one another to find solutions that make the business run more efficiently
  • Referring people to the business (this can include shout-outs on social media, friend and family referrals, etc.)
  • Meeting add-on sales goals

The key is to align incentives with the goals you have for your company. Be sure to look at both immediate and long-term needs.

Ideas for Rewards to Offer
There are many different ways to award excellent performance. Mary Conner, a small business owner in southern Indiana, recently began awarding her employees with incentives when they bring in new customers to her store.

“I offered a paid day of vacation for the top referrer over the summer,” Conner shared. “They worked really hard to get that extra day. Some of them wanted the time off to spend with family and others just liked the idea of extending vacation an extra day. In the end, my workers did so well with the program that I wound up giving them all a day off and then gave two days to the top referrer.”

Conner says she will be repeating the program in the future, but may mix up what prize she offers. Other ideas for incentives for performance include:

  • Gift cards to local stores and restaurants
  • Awards and recognition
  • Lunch out with the boss (boss pays, of course)
  • Items with company logo, such as a nice jacket or a cooler
  • Cash bonus

If you aren’t sure what incentives your employees would most like, conduct a poll or put out a box asking for ideas from your workers. They may come up with some unique incentives you hadn’t thought of.

Do Incentives Really Motivate Employees to Work Harder?
There are two schools of thought about incentive plans. In an article on Harvard Business Review, Alfie Kohn, a university lecturer on education and corporate management issues, states that using incentives only alters behavior temporarily and then workers will go back to old behavior because they’ve been demotivated once the reward is past.

Kohn has a point, but for businesses that may need that extra boost to go to the next level, performance awards can increase sales or improve employee behavior. In addition, many successful business owners have used incentives for years with excellent results.

“The key,” Conner added, “is to not just have one award and then forget you even though of offering a prize for a goal. Set up a new award for a new goal each time you finish one. After the summer referral goal, I set up an add-on sales goal for the fall. In the winter, we’ll do something different. You have to constantly think ahead of the game.”

The good news? You don’t even have to spend money to motivate most employees. In a survey by Accountemps, a staffing firm, they found that most office workers prefer simply to be recognized and this will motivate them to work harder in future. A simple, “John is doing a great job with customer service” in the next team meeting can make John want to work harder and may make others want to get that same pat on the back as well.

Should You Implement Incentives?
To decide whether performance awards are right for your company, look first at areas you feel need improvement and set a goal. Figure out how your employees can help you meet that goal and how you’ll reward them if they do.

When you first start, it is probably best to set a goal and award period that is short-term. If you find that incentives work well with your employees and help your business grow or be more successful in key areas, you can always add more programs or make them a permanent part of your company.

Lori Soard

Posted In: Management

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