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17 Effective Employee Incentive Program Ideas For Work In 2022

By July 27, 2022 November 2nd, 2022 No Comments

Employee Incentive Program Ideas For WorkIn the world of employer-employee dynamics, there exists one simple truth many employers just don’t want to face: a paycheck and a solid benefits package are not incentives.

Employees get used to receiving regular pay and many people don’t even connect the pay they receive with the work they do.

That’s why, depending on your company of course, a desire for optimal performance necessitates employee incentive programs that inspire employees to do their best.

In a hurry? These are some of our favorite incentive programs for employees:

WorkTango 🏆 Rewarding your team’s priorities, culture, and performance with premium incentives Visit WorkTango
Bonusly 💯 Sending redeemable points with social recognition Visit Bonusly
Awardco 🎁 Getting something off their wishlist Visit Awardco
Bucketlist ✈️ Gifting them an experience of a lifetime Visit Bucketlist
Motivosity 📢 Recognizing them via a company-wide shoutout Visit Motivosity

As Simon Sinek says in Start with Why,

“There are only two ways to influence human behavior: you can manipulate it or you can inspire it.”

“There are only two ways to influence human behavior: you can manipulate it or you can inspire it.” Click To Tweet

Create or refine your employee incentive plans with the ideas below. You’ll find everything from incentives based on employee engagement to financial incentives earned through sales performance.

Want to improve your employee appreciation program this year?


What Is An Employee Incentive Program?

An employee incentive program is a system that a business uses to inspire and encourage better workplace performance and execution. While these programs can vary in the size and scope of their impact on business processes, they often involve rewards, perks, and recognition tactics to promote larger company goals and values.

What Is An Employee Incentive Program

Benefits Of An Employee Incentive Program

The benefits of an employee incentive program can be significant, especially if you’ve developed a program that incentivizes behaviors and actions that benefit your company goals. (See previous section.)

So while some benefits vary from company to company, there are some long-term financial and emotional perks many companies experience across the board.

  • Reduced turnover resulting from a hefty decrease in employee dissatisfaction.
  • Stellar productivity. (The human resources experts at the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) can vouch for that.
  • Higher employee morale. Who doesn’t love being rewarded and encouraged for doing their best?
  • Improved wellness, especially if you offer health and wellness incentives.
  • Friendlier office teamwork, as many incentives for employees encourage cooperation and collaboration.
  • Enhanced reputation, as employees rep the brand with a positive attitude.


Employee Incentive Programs For Work

Start planning your corporate incentive program using the ideas below, which cover both incentive program themes and also behaviors you want to encourage.

Whatever program you choose, don’t forget to keep it motivational by ensuring the incentive basis (e.g. perfect attendance) is achievable, and the incentive itself (e.g. a free vacation day) is desirable.

1) Incentivize Exemplary Teamwork And Helpfulness

Reward your early birdsWhat is it:

This program rewards employees who work so well with their teams, they inspire everyone else to collaborate as well. These employees are always looking for ways to help others out. Offering this incentive might just turn all your employees into team players.

Tools you can use to help set up this employee incentive program:

  • Nectar. Nectar offers robust employee recognition programs and also a way to inform your incentive program by tracking teamwork and helpfulness. Employees get the resources they need to work better on their teams and employers get an ideal tool for promoting teamwork across the organization.
  • Workstars. This reward website gives employees an easy-to-use tool that will help them get more work done while recognizing their peers. It helps companies connect employees, and it also cultivates the deep sense of caring that drives unstoppable teamwork.


2) Offer Perks For Staying With The Company

Offer Perks For Staying With The CompanyWhat is it:

If you already have high employee satisfaction, adding rewards for those who achieve certain tenure benchmarks will drive your employee retention rates to lofty new heights.

Tools you can use to help set up this employee incentive program:

  • Bonusly. Use Bonusly to set up and even customize anniversary based awards. The platform makes delivering this incentive program easy and it also helps you create buzz that gets all employees excited to meet their next big anniversary date.
  • Awardco. This site makes it easy to reward employees for any occasion via a large network of rewards including hotels, tickets, company swag, gift cards, and charitable donations. A program like this incentivizes employees and even helps to encourage top talent to stay at your company.


3) Offer Spot Awards

Offer Spot AwardsWhat is it:

Spot awards work almost like pop quizzes. You never know for sure when they’re coming, so it inspires you to always be on your best behavior. This incentive plan for employees also has an element of surprise that keeps your program dynamic, giving you the freedom to reward different behaviors and actions at different times.

Tools you can use to help set up this employee incentive program:

  • Caroo. Shop Caroo to reward good behavior with perfectly arranged and customized boxes filled with treats and goodies. With their selection of gift boxes, you can change up your incentives as often as you change up the behaviors you reward.
  • Bucketlist. When you give top performers unforgettable experiences, you ensure they never forget the reward and what they did to earn it. They’ll likely exemplify that behavior ever after, hoping to earn another delightful experience.
  • WorkTango. An employee incentive and recognition platform that lets you instantly reward employees using spot awards for good performance.


4) Start An Eco-Friendly Incentive Program To Reduce Waste

Start an eco-friendly incentive program to reduce wasteWhat is it:

Consider offering eco-friendly employee rewards to employees who’ve made steps to reduce company waste or who participate in ride-sharing programs and other environmentally conscious decisions. This program has the potential to lower costs and maybe even the company-wide carbon footprint while also caring for the environment your employees feel so passionately about protecting.

Tools you can use to help set up this employee incentive program:

  • Eco-friendly Swag bag. Help employees sport eco-friendly swag that makes them feel good and also sends the message that you’re an environmentally-friendly company.
  • Digital Gift Cards. Let them purchase items they need from e-retailers that pride themselves on offering style and sustainability.


5) Offer Sought-After Health And Wellness Incentives

Offer Sought-After Health And Wellness IncentivesWhat is it:

Reward employees for behaviors you appreciate with the health and wellness perks they want. These incentives could easily be part of a standard benefits package or reward system, but offering them instead on an incentive basis elevates their value and also inspires an above-and-beyond mentality.

Tools you can use to help set up this employee incentive program:

  • Employee Wellbeing Survey. Ask your employees directly about what kinds of perks, services, and wellness benefits they care about.
  • ClassPass. More flexible than a classic gym membership, ClassPass is an incentive fitness nuts will be lining up to earn.

👉 Get Your Free Employee Wellbeing Survey


6) Sweeten The Close Of Big Projects

Sweeten The Close Of Big ProjectsWhat is it:

Team members may feel exhausted after a long project, especially if complex projects happen on a regular basis. Offering incentives upon completion of a big task doesn’t just demonstrate your appreciation for the completed project; it also gives employees a reminder of why they should be excited to dive into the next project.

Tools you can use to help set up this employee incentive program:

  • City Brew Tours. Commemorate the end of a project with an epic happy hour that also celebrates your city and the delicious brews it offers. Employees will be counting the days until they finish their next project.
  • Outback Team Building. You can plan an end-of-project event where the entire team can show up and participate in a fun day of activities hosted by a world-class team building company.


7) Tell Them You Trust Them To Represent Your Brand

Tell Them You Trust Them To Represent Your BrandWhat is it:

Give your top performers company swag and you’ll not only keep them feeling appreciated, but you’ll also be creating brand evangelists that will talk up your company and solidify your reputation.

Tools you can use to help set up this employee incentive program:

  • Find thousands of gifts your employees will love on a platform that makes it easy as pie for you to customize and distribute swag as an incentive.
  • Moo Business Cards. Treat your employees to some spiffy business cards to make them feel fancy and excited to rep your brand with swagger and style.


8) Encourage Coworker Appreciation And Camaraderie

Encourage Coworker Appreciation And CamaraderieWhat is it:

An incentive program that rewards employees for appreciating and caring for their coworkers comes along with multiple benefits: enhanced retention, sky-high morale, and fruitful collaboration. A program like this may also spotlight employees who might feel left behind by performance-based incentives they find out of reach.

Tools you can use to help set up this employee incentive program:

  • QuizBreaker. Use QuizBreaker to create and deliver free quizzes that allow coworkers to get to know each other better, giving them even more to appreciate about one another.
  • Water Cooler Trivia. Make your Monday morning a bit more fun by sending out a weekly trivia quiz to your team members and see who will be crowned this week’s winner!
  • Group eCards. Introduce employees to Caroo to provide a budget-friendly way for them to celebrate each other.


9) Reward Your Early Birds

Reward your early birdsWhat is it:

The employees who always show up first are often the most motivated and enthusiastic ones—key contributors to your company goals. Inspire them to keep up their go-getting attitude with a reward program that proves you notice and appreciate their efforts.

Tools you can use to help set up this employee incentive program:

  • Blueboard. An incentive idea for anyone who likes to try new things! This reward platform encourages employees to experience something they have always wanted to. And your company can make it happen!
  • Pajama Gram. People who rise early need to get the best-possible sleep. Give them a hand with chic pajamas that are cozy and also make a statement gift other employees will covet.


10) Provide Professional Development Opportunities

Provide professional development opportunitiesWhat is it:

Inspire employees to do good work by offering incentives in the form of development opportunities they need to do even better work. Employees want professional development; 92% of one survey’s respondents ranked professional development just under compensation in terms of importance.

By offering this incentive, you encourage a cycle of constantly improving work that feeds long-term success.

Tools you can use to help set up this employee incentive program:

  • edX For Business. Leverage the online learning platform to offer learning solutions catered to your employees.


11) Support Causes And Charities

Support Causes And CharitiesWhat is it:

People love helping others. By offering incentives that benefit charities or causes, you could potentially boost employee performance by more than you would by offering individual rewards. Employees will fight to earn support for causes they believe in, and they’ll never once feel greedy for striving to earn rewards.

Tools you can use to help set up this employee incentive program:

  • Fundly. Using Fundly, employees can start funds for causes they care about and that employers can easily contribute to when the fund owner earns an incentive.
  • VolunteerMatch. Employees can search this site for causes they want to support. Your incentive can include time off to participate in the volunteer experience.
  • Donation Match. Play to employees’ altruistic side by matching their donations.


12) Make Commuting Less Painful For Them

Make Commuting Less Painful What is it:

Offer commuting benefits and stipends to encourage anything from participation in training to chairing a committee. Plus, by making employees’ commutes better, you put them in the right state of mind to have great work days.

Tools you can use to help set up this employee incentive program:

  • WageWorks Commuter Benefits Program. This turnkey solution connects employees to transportation service providers and also provides a platform for easy administration. Offering a commuter incentive might sound complicated, but it could be the easiest thing you do all year.
  • Edenred Commuter Benefits. Another all-in-one solution, this platform allows you to offer incentives on a range of flexible commuting options. (That employee who has always wanted to try a bike share service is in luck!)


13) Fill Their Pockets

Fill Their PocketsWhat is it:

Monetary rewards may be the most fluid, one-size-fits-all incentives to offer employees. With this program, the beneficiaries receive something you know they want and can absolutely use, whether you’re offering sales incentives, trying profit sharing to incentivize profitability-based performance metrics, or giving referral bonuses for people who bring quality job candidates into your company.

Tools you can use to help set up this employee incentive program:

  • Compass. Compass is a platform designed specifically for managing monetary bonuses, making it easy to allocate and administer incentives.
  • Jobvite Referrals. Employees can use this tool to refer qualified candidates to your open positions while also earning some sweet, sweet, incentives.


14) Show You Value Perfect Attendance

Show You Value Perfect AttendanceWhat is it:

This program celebrates employees who always show up with a smile. Give them the appreciation and motivation they need to keep up their reliable work with non-monetary incentives designed with them in mind.

Tools you can use to help set up this employee incentive program:

  • Random Picker. Use this tool to assign employees lottery-style numbers for every day they show up. At the end of the year, randomly draw a number. Sure, anyone could win, but those with perfect attendance will have the best chance.


15) Give Them An Extra Reason To Meet Quarterly Goals

Give Them An Extra Reason To Meet Quarterly GoalsWhat is it:

Celebrate the hard work of your sales team or acknowledge the long hours your marketing team put in by offering incentives to layer on to the already satisfying accomplishment of meeting quarterly goals. Employees’ goal success rate could go up, which spells growth and success for your company.

Tools you can use to help set up this employee incentive program:

  • Usual Wines. The gift of wine is the perfect celebratory toast for anyone celebrating both large and small successes.
  • Eoniq. Try on the vintage incentive of offering classic timepieces to your top performers.


16) Let Them Earn Creative Honors And Bragging Rights

Let Them Earn Creative Honors And Bragging RightsWhat is it:

This program idea offers incentives based on creative output. For example, small businesses with no creative agency might offer incentives for the in-house employee who names a new product. Even large business owners might consider holding contests to seek solutions for important initiatives or pressing problems.

Tools you can use to help set up this employee incentive program:

  • Stormboard. Stormboard, a virtual brainstorming tool, helps you set employees up for the kind of creativity your incentive program celebrates while promoting employee engagement across your team.
  • BrightIdea. This platform provides a ready-made solution for objectively and soundly managing and evaluating employee ideas on even abstract topics.


17) Acknowledge Time Well Spent With Time Off

Acknowledge Time Well Spent With Time OffWhat is it:

Most employees value work-life balance, even considering it an important factor in their job choices. Many employees will even front extra work hours if there’s a chance to get some of it back down the road. Inspire employees to go above and beyond by offering them time to rest and rebalance afterwards.

Tools you can use to help set up this employee incentive program:

  • Leave Dates. Keep time-off incentives from becoming a logistical nightmare with this tracking tool.
  • Pack Up + Go. Give employees spontaneous and refreshing ways to use their well-earned time off with a gift card to a service that sends curious travelers to surprise destinations.


What Should You Include In An Employee Incentive Program?

An effective employee incentive program should cover the following elements:

1) What truly merits an incentive?

  • Answer this question by identifying the performance metrics and/or employee characteristics and behaviors that are most beneficial to your company goals. What you choose to incentivize should align with your company culture and brand. For example, if customer service is the most important aspect of your brand, then you might offer incentives for earning high customer reviews.

2) What do you hope to accomplish through this incentive program?

  • This could be the most important question. The answer will help you maintain focus throughout implementation and into the measurement phase.

3) How do employees earn an incentive?

  • This answer must be specific and measurable, lest your incentive program turn arbitrary, subject to individual managers’ whims. You will also use this to communicate to employees precisely what they must do to earn an incentive.

4) What is the incentive?

  • Your incentives themselves should also align with your company culture and brand. Continuing with the example above, if customer service is the most important aspect of your brand, then your incentives might include customer service classes or time to volunteer.

5) Why do employees want this incentive?

  • If you want your program to work then your motivators must be, well…motivating.

6) How will you deliver and manage said incentives?

  • This answer will be a long one. To answer it well, you’ll need to develop an implementation plan and also a promotional plan.

7) How will you make sure it’s working?

  • As you probably guessed, the answer to this question waits in your plan for monitoring and measuring your program’s success toward your established goal.


People Also Ask These Questions About Employee Incentive Programs

Q: How do I create an employee incentive program?

  • A: Create an employee incentive program by:
    • Identifying an incentive angle that benefits employees and the company
    • Developing a long-term implementation and promotion plan
    • Identifying and tracking performance metrics after launch
    • Using data to optimize your programs
    • Get started with step one by checking out these incentive angles and implementation resources.

Q: What kind of incentive programs can I use to motivate employees?

  • A: You can use performance, creative, and attendance-based incentive programs to motivate employees. Whatever style of incentive program you choose, you can keep it motivational by ensuring the incentive basis (e.g. perfect attendance) is achievable and the incentive itself (e.g. a free vacation day) is desirable.

Q: Why do incentive programs work?

  • A: Incentive programs work because they’re mutually beneficial, giving both employees and employers something they want or need.

Q: What are some employee incentive examples?

  • A: Some employee incentive examples include providing retirement stipends for employees who achieve specified tenure benchmarks or planning a happy hour to celebrate the close of a long project.

Q: Do employee incentive programs work?

  • A: It depends! Employee incentive programs work when they’ve been thoughtfully developed and monitored. For example, one study found that a program specifically designed to address one company’s unique needs nearly doubled their positive performance reporting. On the other hand, a different study found that blindly doling out cash rewards had no impact on performance. Designing an employee performance incentive program should take your company culture and working environment into account.

Q: What are some creative incentives for employees?

  • A: Between monetary incentives, non-monetary incentives, and goal-based incentives, there is no shortage of strategies to encourage your employees to work harder. In this guide, we aim to break down the different types of incentives for employees to make it easier for you to build the best incentive program for your organization.

Q: Where can I find new employee incentive ideas to try?

  • A: The team at SnackNation collaborated directly with a number of HR departments to find out which kinds of employee incentives succeed in this new age of work. With employees working in office, remotely, at home, and everything in between, your employee incentive ideas should reflect this flexibility. Finally, don’t forget to ask your employees themselves what kinds of performance incentive programs would motivate them. After all, they’re the ones who will be participating in the program, so they’re the best people to ask!

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