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10 Ways to Make Employee Incentive Programs Actually Effective

3 min read

Ready to motivate your employees to do their best? Let’s talk about employee incentive programs

The benefits of incentive programs — for you and for your employees — are undeniable. Incentive programs boost employee engagement and appreciation, which increase employee retention and productivity. Incentives are also an integrated way to bolster your company’s culture and values.

Let’s dive into 10 ideas for incentive programs that reward your employees, build your culture, and boost your bottom line.


1. Take a look at your benefits offerings vs. what employees use (and need)

Before making any major decisions about new offerings, take a few minutes to review your current benefits — including what your employees actually use.

Are you putting budget toward parking passes for a workforce that’s mostly gone remote? Figure out which benefits are underutilized. Poll your employees to find out why. And, most importantly, find out what they do use, and what they need more of. Keep these learnings in mind as you move forward.

Bonus: Not sure where to start? Use our article Perks, Benefits, and Employee Rewards — What’s the Difference? as a guide.


2. Use incentives and awards to boost wellness benefits

wellness incentive in the Kazoo platform
Users of the Kazoo platform can earn custom point amounts for “breaking a sweat.”

Physical health is a win-win for our mental health and emotional well-being — and your health insurance costs! So use Incentives, awards, and recognition to reward employees for participating in your wellness programs!

Bonus: Is your workforce newly remote or partially remote? You can still offer fitness challenges, do online group classes, and subsidize workout passes. Your employees will feel appreciated, and it boosts their performance.


3. Don’t just offer benefits — make them easy to use

Thinking about hiring? Good benefits packages are important for attracting top talent. But they’re even more important for keeping the employees you already have. According to SHRM, employees who like their health benefits are much more likely to stay at their current job. 

So in addition to offering great benefits, make sure your employees have the flexibility to actually use them. For example: In addition to offering sick days, consider giving “healthy days” for employees to go to preventative healthcare appointments. And help prevent burnout by offering mental health days for mental R&R, too.


4. Build in employee recognition

Bonuses, vacations, and parties are nice. But honestly? You can get a lot of mileage out of just saying thank you. In fact, 81% of employees say they’re motivated to do their best work when their bosses show appreciation.


Make recognition part of your culture:
25 Heartfelt Employee Appreciation and Recognition Ideas


5. Offer rewards that fit your employees

Want to give great rewards? Get best bang for your buck with a custom rewards catalog. So instead of everyone getting the same T-shirt, team members earn reward points to spend on what’s most meaningful to them.

What should you offer as rewards? Poll your employees and find out what matters to them. Maybe it’s a company water bottle or hoodie. Or gift cards. Or monetary rewards. Get a catalog that’s flexible, and add what matters.


Kazoo’s custom rewards catalog offers something for everyone.
Kazoo’s Recognition & Rewards platform

custom rewards should be a key part of your employee incentive program

Learn more


6. Help your employees grow

Top talent wants to grow. In fact, in 2019, the fastest-growing reason for high performers leaving their job for another was a lack of professional development opportunities.

So invest in your employees’ continuing education! This includes tuition reimbursement, mentorship programs, or a budget for the books, conferences, and webinars that will help them gain new skills. 


Manage incentives, growth, and more in one place:
The Benefits of an Employee Experience Platform


7. Offer flexible scheduling

Now more than ever, protecting work-life balance is key for productivity, retention, and employee engagement. Remember, the location, hours, and tasks that work for one employee may look very different for others, especially in a post-pandemic world.

So get flexible! Find out what conditions create success for your teams, and then enable them.


8. Celebrate big and small wins

team-building incentive from Kazoo's catalog
Bonus: Build community by rewarding employees for hosting and attending virtual team-building events.

You may not expect it. But there’s a huge ROI on celebrating birthdays, work anniversaries, and other important milestones in employee satisfaction, connection to the team, and sense of morale.

Working remotely? You can still make celebration an active part of your employee incentive program! Try simple things like sending birthday flowers, planning a celebratory team picnic, or designating a “wall of fame” to share each other’s wins to boost camaraderie and morale.


9. Create professional opportunities

Help employees take on higher levels of responsibility within the company and grow their professional skills.

For example: Give them the ability to apply for open positions before posting to a job board or to social media. Not quite ready for that promotion? Work with managers to offer clear, direct feedback on how they can get there.


10. Foster connection with team rewards

In the new remote and partly remote workforces, isolation is a big contributor to burnout. But good employee incentive programs get creative.

Give employees something to work toward with team rewards. Try a group wine tasting over video chat. Or an hour of Zoom game time in the middle of the work day, or a socially distanced picnic. Using your employee incentive programs to promote togetherness and experiences can invoke much stronger emotional ties than some traditional, more transactional perks.


Managing employee incentive programs with tech

Making employee recognition a cornerstone of your company culture isn’t rocket science. But managing it is a different story.

That’s where we come in.

Because at Kazoo, we’re passionate about bringing together all the tools you need to make work work better for everyone. That’s why the Kazoo Employee Experience Platform brings performance management and recognition and rewards — including Goals, Feedback, Conversations, Recognition, Incentives, and more — into one simple, easy-to-use platform.

If you’re ready to align, connect, and engage your workplace, check out our Kazoo overview. Or, schedule a personalized demo today.

Learn more