Avoiding pitfalls that can derail an employee incentive program

In an earlier post on effective incentive programs, we discussed the essentials that can help HR departments, managers, and team leaders drive such programs within the organization. Along with those dos there are also don’ts, that can potentially derail a rewards and recognition system. Then, let’s look at what to avoid when creating and managing your organization’s incentive program. This could range from fostering unhealthy competition to rewards that lack meaning and will not be appreciated or remembered by employees.

Ensuring the basics are in place

While creating an incentive structure, avoid making it complicated or with so many hoops to jump through, that employees don’t feel like participating. Have clear cut, easy to understand requirements and how-to information.

Moreover, don’t forget to communicate. Employees should be aware of the path to garnering recognition and the eligibility and criteria for the incentive program.

Once this spadework is done, assess your program against these ‘don’ts’ that could derail its success:

  • Nothing destroys employee morale – and cooperation – faster than being pitted against one other so that rather than working as a team they start to compete fiercely on an individual level. When team members are more interested in garnering personal reward or recognition than in achieving a common, organizational, or client goal, it quickly destroys the culture and positive spirit which the incentive program was created to foster.
  • Too few rewards in the program also have a similar effect and can demotivate or cause jealousy rather than instill healthy competition. Plan and implement rewards and recognition at regular intervals and with smaller payouts, rather than have scattered and high-value incentivization that only a few amongst your employees can hope to achieve.
  • One size and style of rewards will not cater to the needs of the entire organization – you need a flexible plan in place. Some employees may appreciate a gift card, others may want the reward to be a part of their paycheck, especially if it is a larger amount. Some may be happy with a plaque and email recognizing their efforts for smaller successes. While some others might appreciate the “gift of time” or getting an extra day off as a reward. Take time to survey employees and find out what works, and create your incentive program and rewards, accordingly.
  • Short-term goals and incentives might not lead to long-term improvements, says the research. Avoid creating get-rich-quick style rewards, which might show quick results, but will not have any lasting impact or bring about positive changes in behaviors or ways of working.

Remember to tailor your incentive program to reach every employee across the board. In the current scenario of an increasingly remote workforce with more employees working from home, you may have to tweak the style of celebration as well as the kind of reward offered. A web event or celebration on a monthly or quarterly basis, depending on the size of the company, can provide tangible recognition for the successful employees while ensuring the rest of the team is part of the process too.

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