Working toward company success is a complex and ever-changing process. Without proper motivation to help organizational growth, employees will become complacent and their behavior stagnant. Staff will solely be interested in coming to work, getting their checks and leaving on time – no more, but potentially less.
Naturally, we want staff to realize the importance of a successful business and display behaviors that further this goal; however, it's unrealistic to expect workers to adhere to these practices without guidance or motivation. This is why it's important to properly outline, direct and reward such actions accordingly.
Needs vary from one organization to another, which is why incentives should focus on behaviors that directly affect the company's stated goals and changing needs.
First, ensure that the business' mission, vision and values are clearly written and accessible. Many businesses – especially large ones – do this, and for good reason. When employees number in the hundreds or thousands across different branches, locations and departments, keeping them all focused is difficult. In this situation, consistent guidelines are invaluable.
Like any rules or requirements, it's management's responsibility to keep things on track. Regular group meetings and one-on-one coaching sessions allow senior staff to remind workers about the organizational goals, steer them in the right direction or congratulate individuals who display helpful behaviors.
Incentivizing Important Behaviors
According to the Incentive Research Foundation (IRF), "...incentive programs can boost performance by anywhere from 25 to 44 percent, but only if conducted in ways that address all issues related to performance and human motivation." In other words, the incentives need to be all-inclusive; however, they must also be attached to specific achievements or practices that support the business' current needs and overall objectives. Considering how these can vary, there are many potential approaches.
Knowing your employees is the first step. Some workers are new to the organization. Consequently, they can't be expected to proactively generate well-informed ideas or take on important and complex duties, let alone excel at them.
Tenured staff, on the other hand, are more likely to understand the company's needs (and probably lived through many organizational goal changes). Their depth of familiarity makes them a fountain of potential ideas for ways to improve or create approaches for assignments that support the mission, vision and values.
Keeping things interesting is a great incentive; best of all, this can be relegated to specific things that the business requires to achieve its current and long-term goals. Giving people a variety of duties within that sphere of influence is a great defense against boredom and turnover. Having variety improves performance, since there's always something new to do or master; however, give these selected employees a chance to try new duties or roles before flat-out placing them there. This ensures that the candidates are comfortable with moving forward. This will encourage, rather than force, behavioral changes that benefit the company – all without spending a dime on prizes.
Supporting top performers is essential for retention, but it also helps with selecting those who make decisions or succeed in areas that are specific to organizational objectives. In other words, you need to define "top performer." Typically, such people demonstrate an aptitude for certain important roles, such as sales or customer relations, which help advance profits and gain new clients, for instance. The same applies for those who propose changes to policies or practices that ultimately improve company performance in terms of efficiency, morale and workplace quality, to name a few.
People like these are critical, as is retaining their talent. While regular incentives such as vacations, prizes or time off are always good, giving top performers a sense of upward mobility is even more effective. Opportunities for advancement or increasing responsibility with the aim of advancement makes those deserving staff a sense that they're appreciated and, more importantly, have a future with the organization.
Determining cause and effect when it comes to employee contributions is a good way to separate good staff from goods staff who actually impact specific business goals. For example, an employee with an excellent attendance record deserves recognition; however, this doesn't affect the big picture. On the other hand, a worker who brings innovative ideas to the table that help attract new clients or improve existing products should be incentivized accordingly.
Creating effective incentives is complicated enough, but associating those rewards with specific, relevant behaviors is a challenge within a challenge. While there are plenty of potential approaches, the key is to support contributions from employees who demonstrate knowledge, dedication and flexibility as they relate to the business' long and short-term goals.