Archive for the 'employee incentive programs' Category

tug of war

Over the years we have seen companies ascribe many different objectives to employee recognition or incentive programs.  Programs that don’t work well or produce results have at least one thing in common… when the participants don’t perceive the objectives are attainable, they were doomed to fail from the beginning.

When you are in your planning phase here are some things to keep in mind that incentive or recognition programs can’t address.  Avoid them if at all possible:

  • Don’t be lulled into the comfort level that every participant can achieve results.  The 80/20 rule is alive and well in any incentive program.  You’ll have the top 10% of winners just like you’ve always had, and you’ll have the bottom 10% that fail like you’ve always had.  But the middle 80% can be moved to improve performance. 
  • Periodic incentives are not a substitute for good feedback to your participants.  Regular feedback should be ongoing.  The more you measure and report performance, the better performance you will have.  Believe in the adage that “What gets measured gets done and what gets rewarded gets repeated.  
  • You can’t use incentives as a replacement for enforcing policy, although you can make the enforcement a qualifier for participation. 
  • Incentives or recognition won’t resolve the design of a bad job description or staffing decisions.  When you have issues in staffing or work responsibilities that stand in the way of good performance, an award for better performance can’t be achieved. 
  • You can’t fix broken organizational structures or processes.  Even if you dangled a new car for everyone in the program for achieving results, you’re better off investing the money on the real problem.  If not, your participants are likely to develop their own “workarounds” that can cause further damage. 

Incentive and recognition programs can and will backfire when you aren’t honest about your current situation, business climate or culture.  When you implement your program, objectives that make upper management warm and fuzzy won’t produce results unless your participants know that they are realistic and achievable.  Without that, you won’t have a program, so save the money, and the headache.

If you’re interested in learning about a high value, low cost gift card recognition system that is easy to implement please contact us above.

incentive ahead

Over the years we have seen companies ascribe many different objectives to employee recognition or incentive programs.  The programs that work well and produce results all have one thing in common….objectives that can be achieved by the participants in the program.  Here are some of things to consider when planning your next incentive or recognition effort:

  • They can concentrate attention on your top company priorities 
  • They are first and foremost great communication tools that guide employees to what they individually can do to achieve results 
  • They will allow you to share the company success with the employees. ..they earn a part of what they help create. 
  • They can help to break down barriers between departments and divisions encouraging teamwork and creating a synergy for higher performance 
  • They will foster employee development in new skills and qualities necessary for future growth.

These certainly aren’t the only things that a recognition or incentive program can achieve, but in your planning phase, it’s very important to consider these points.  They can be very powerful when you use them well, but even more powerful with negative consequences when you don’t.

Incentive and recognition programs can and will backfire when you aren’t honest about your current situation, business climate or culture.  When you implement your program, objectives that make upper management warm and fuzzy won’t produce results unless your participants know that they are realistic and achievable.  Without that, you won’t have a program, so save the money, and the headache.

10 1st, 2013

paradigm shiftA paradigm shift is a change in our basic assumptions about a standard we have been using to make decisions.  In the past it was deemed quite revolutionary to move away from the accepted norm but within our rapidly changing environment, and knowledge storm that comes with the internet, changing our mind about many things happens often.

Employee recognition is one of our paradigms that has changed over the years from a “nice to do” business tactic, to almost a necessity to maintain and grow employ performance.  It is a given in many circles, but a tool that is often misunderstood and never or rarely used as often as it should be.  We haven’t met an executive yet who didn’t agree that employee recognition should be a focal point, but when asked what they do in their own organization they refer to the years of service program that doles out 5 year pins and other innocuous awards for just being there!  If you want to get more benefit  out this proven successful strategy, here are a couple paradigm shifts to consider:

  • Think about recognition as drivers of performance, not rewards for something after the fact.
  • Get creative with it, use some humor when feasible.  It is a serious practice, but that doesn’t mean it can’t be fun.
  • Do it as often as possible make it visible, when employees see the best people being recognized, the want to emulate them.
  • It doesn’t have to cost much.  The “big thing” these days is recognizing through social media, and that’s certainly effective.
  • Think about getting away from technology once in a while.  A hand written note on nice note cards can be as or more memorable as the shiniest plaque.
  • Look for new opportunities to celebrate; there are hundreds at your disposal if you’d just take a few minutes each day to look for them.
  • Think outside your department or even company.  Saying thanks to those who serve your company connects them more closely to your overall objectives

Employee recognition doesn’t have to go stale.  It works effectively at improving the performance of your people.  The time and attention you give to keep it refreshed will be returned tenfold in a culture that nurtures success.

09 24th, 2013


Research by Bersin & Associates shows the impact of employee recognition on the bottom line.  As we’ve seen with other research on the subject, successful companies use recognition to motivate the performance of their associates and drive strong business performance and accountability.

In the yearlong study Bersin showed that employee recognition can produce some surprising results.  After defining and measuring what a “high recognition company” was, they concluded that those companies dramatically outperform like organizations by 12 times in a wide range of business outcomes.   In addition those companies had 30% lower voluntary employee turnover which equates to millions of dollars in savings for those corporations.

These “high recognition companies” structure recognition systems that allow peers to “thank and provide feedback to peers,” not just use managers to do it.  By giving employees open access to the program everyone can see who is being recognized and for what.  They can create an entire organization of previously unsung heroes to get the credit they deserve.  As this form of recognition creates positive reactions from both the giver and receiver, it makes everyone happier and more productive.

Simply saying ‘Thank You’ is a management tool that has been around for years, allowing the front line employees to do it by themselves is a relatively new phenomenon in business, but one that has proven its worth.  Take a look at what a very successful CEO, Robert Eckert, retired CEO and Chairman of Mattel had to say about ‘Thank You’ and how it affected his career.

Recognition works; it will drive bottom line results and achieve a wide range of business objectives.  If you haven’t made peer to peer “thank yous” as a part of your overall effort, you’re probably missing some big opportunities.

By the way, in the spirit of shameless advertising, the Award of Choice makes a perfect award for peer to peer programs….they are easy to administer, cost effective and exactly what your employees want.


According to First Data research, store specific gift cards are more popular than credit card-branded gift cards for incentive programs.

The “Prepaid Business Incentive Report” showed that over 37% all incentive budgets are used for some type of gift card, a large percent considering the numbers of incentive categories there are.  It also mentioned many other types of incentives such as service award merchandise and travel only made up budget shares in the single digits.

This is truly surprising growth; less than twenty-five years ago gift cards didn’t even make up 1% of incentive budgets.  Traditional merchandise incentive suppliers have painstakingly attempted to quash this growth of gift cards with all manners of negative selling but to no avail.  For every 100 sales reps calling on American corporations trying to sell them incentives, there is only about one selling gift card systems.

The respondents of the survey were companies employing over 100 individuals and represented industries as disparate as manufacturing, government, retail and communications.   Of the 37% of budgets using cards, 20% were single merchant cards and 14% were network branded open loop cards such as Visa and American Express, and 3% was paper gift certificates.    The balance of the budgets was made up of 6% in merchandise, 4% to points based programs, 3% to travel, and 14% to plaques, pins and logoed apparel.  Cash and cash like awards made up the rest with approx. 36%.  At one time cash was in excess of 60% of all incentive budgets, maybe more.

The reason companies prefer closed loop merchant gift cards vs. bank credit cards was attributed to a variety of factors.  These include employee preference (38%) followed by physical proximity and past ordering history.  When purchasing large quantities of certain merchant gift cards, the company can receive a volume discount, but it is administratively and financially difficult to source several cards like this.  In addition they lose the advantage of having a gift card system that offers hundreds of different cards giving the employees a great choice.  One disadvantage of using open ended bank type gift cards is the fee.  As most gift card denominations used in these types of incentive programs are $25 and some $50, these fees can represent as much as 15-20 additional cost over the face amount of the card.

The most common reason for using gift cards as employee awards were employee recognition (which includes safety awards) at 48%; service anniversary awards at 36%; year-end holidays 32% and employee health and wellness goals at 12%.