While some believe incentives can help to keep employees motivated at large companies, others see the potential for them to demotivate teammates or hurt morale if they’re not provided in the right way. In the end, any incentive’s impact ultimately depends on what is offered to whom and why.
Below, Forbes Coaches Council members share their thoughts on how leaders of large businesses can leverage incentives to motivate their employees. Read on to learn about the pros and cons of conventional incentives as well as alternatives to monetary incentives.
You get what you measure. If you measure outcomes and create incentives, the outcome will probably grow. But how will it impact morale? Personal development? What’s the long-term effect? I would only offer incentives for personal development. Show me you grew, and I’ll reward it accordingly. This is the only measurable outcome that benefits us both.
Incentives absolutely work, but remember that not everyone is motivated by the same things! Incentives need to be varied offerings or benefits of similar monetary value, and employees need to be able to select what matters most to them. If you allow individual employees to tell you explicitly what they would be motivated by, and you provide those benefits or systems, you will have a team of highly engaged employees.
When I was in advertising, I kept my team members happy with meaningful and relevant incentives. It impacts both their success and the success of your business. Learn what tools they need to perform well, leverage their strengths and show appreciation. Studies have revealed that people who feel good about their job and are connected to their bosses are more likely to stay in the job and perform well. It’s a win-win.
Organizational psychology shows that overuse of extrinsic motivations, such as performance incentives, can actually reduce employees’ intrinsic or natural motivation. Incentive programs should be carefully designed to work with, rather than against, employees’ intrinsic motivation. Recognition, flexibility, autonomy and opportunities for meaningful work are important to ongoing motivation.
Incentives are a great way to keep people motivated, as long as they are aligned with what employees value and are a complement to talent development, promotion and pay.
Employee incentive programs improve engagement and retention. With a wide range of options, from tuition reimbursement to additional paid time off, organizations need to choose the programs best suited to their workforce and aligned with their values. Consider areas of focus and target programs accordingly. For instance, a recruitment referral bonus can improve hiring and motivate workers at the same time.
Incentives are, by their nature, necessary. However, pay and promotion are often substitutes for purpose. Finding a way to give everyone a sense of purpose in your business is a very powerful motivator and a great incentive. I use a three-year plan that relies on goal-setting theory that is delivered by a growth team to achieve this for my clients.
It is often more effective to create a work environment that supports employee engagement and motivation than to use incentives. This can involve providing clear goals and expectations, offering opportunities for growth and development, fostering a positive work culture and recognizing and rewarding employees for their contributions. Effective leaders can help to create a sense of purpose and drive that goes beyond a desire to earn incentives. – Cristian Hofmann, Empowering Executives | SUPERGROUP LTD
Incentives can come in many forms—although, if they are used to compensate for low pay, it may be demotivating and stressful. Incentives can be an excellent way to engage employees in the mission to be accomplished. A global package (not only money) based on measurable objectives known to all to achieve the organization’s vision and drawn from a 360-degree scorecard can create space for meaning and purpose.
Incentives can motivate employees, but they should be well-planned, aligned with company goals and balanced with other forms of recognition. Otherwise, they may not be effective or could have negative effects.
Providing incentives that match the right organizational goals both helps employees to stay motivated and also helps drive the company’s performance in the right direction. It’s important to make sure the incentive drives the right employee behavior.
Let’s start with important questions: What is the incentive for? And who is it for? At the luxury brand I used to work for, the objectives of an incentive were always to 1. revive staff interest in a product that was not a bestseller (which is a real challenge!), 2. offer something different from the usual day-to-day, and 3. make additional sales and money—in that order!
Incentives can be a great way to motivate your team if they are aligned with the right outcomes. However, if the incentives are misaligned or skewed toward certain teams, it can cause dysfunction, a lack of collaboration and even resentment. Make sure you align incentives with the right outcomes so that everyone wins if the team succeeds.
Incentives can be helpful when the work is predictable, routine, tangible, competitive or repetitive in nature. This kind of work can be more extrinsically motivated and lends itself to easier measurement. For complex and deeply technical work, incentives are less effective. Generally, people doing this work have more intrinsic motivation.