Inexpensive Employee Incentives

Never underestimate the power of a sincere "Thank You."

Providing employees with reasons to excel at their jobs doesn't have to be pricey; inexpensive employee incentives can work as well. Salary and benefits are important, but workers also like to feel that their efforts are appreciated.

Using Incentives as Carrots

Saying a sincere "Thank You" to employees is important, but it is done after the fact. A good incentive program acts like a carrot to encourage employees to go the extra mile from the beginning of a project or as part of their daily responsibilities.

The key is to create an atmosphere where employees are enthusiastic about their jobs. Enthusiasm breeds more enthusiasm; it's contagious. Employees will be spending a good portion of their waking hours in the workplace and largely, it is up to them whether those hours are pleasant or not since the work needs to be done anyway. It stands to reason that employees that are happy will be more productive than those who are feeling miserable about their job.

Choosing an Incentive

There are a number of options for inexpensive employee incentives, including:

  • Extra Time Off
  • Gift Certificates/Gift Cards
  • A Plaque or Award
  • A Gift
  • A Points Program
  • A Trip

One good way of finding out what employees would appreciate as an incentive is to ask them. People are more likely to strive to achieve a goal if an incentive is meaningful to them. Offer different incentives during different months or promotional periods.

Smaller, less-expensive incentives can be used for frequent rewarding, or as interim gifts for larger incentives. In addition to points and charting programs, cheaper incentive gifts may include items such as:

  • Mouse Pads or Wrist Wrests
  • Mugs and Coasters
  • Gourmet Coffees or Teas
  • Special Desk or Office Supplies
  • Umbrellas
  • Calculators
  • Gas Cards

Setting Goals

Employees can work on goals individually or as part of a team effort. Whatever goal management sets for them must be something that can be measured. This could be increasing sales by a certain dollar amount or percentage, signing up a set number of new accounts every month, or reducing office waste by a certain percentage.

When setting goals for employees, make sure results are achievable. Don't set up your employees to fail. One strategy that works is to have managers reward employees on the spot for exceptional customer service by giving them a gift certificate or a gift card. Not only will the employee being recognized appreciate the gift, but other employees will be inspired to perform well and receive a gift too.

Inexpensive Employee Incentives as Business Policy

Reduced Staff Turnovers

Adopting an employee-incentive system is part of an overall plan for reducing employee turnover. Employers should start with the basics by ensuring that their compensation packages are competitive. Job descriptions should be written in such as way as to accurately reflect the requirements for each role in the company. Is training appropriate and up-to-date? Are workers given the tools and support needed to perform their duties? These are all aspects of keeping employees motivated and happy and need to be part of management's overall plan. It costs a company money to attract qualified candidates; once these people are hired, it's in the company's best interests to retain them.

Reward Often

Don't make rewarding employees a once-a-year occasion. To keep workers motivated, acknowledge their contributions often. If you have a company newsletter, include a section listing outstanding performers. Include a write-up describing what makes them so valuable to the company.

Rewarding Effort

Inexpensive employee incentives can be used for rewarding effort as well as outstanding performance. One business owner instituted a plan for a group of interns: the Ice Cream Cone of Failure. Once a week the individual who had tried to do something new and failed was given a gift certificate to a gourmet ice cream store. The young people were actually having their efforts acknowledged and rewarded for creative thinking!

The way to determine if an employee incentive program is working effectively is to monitor the results achieved. It doesn't have to be a costly proposition to reward great employees and motivate all staff to do their best.

Inexpensive Employee Incentives