10 Ideas for Effective Employee Incentive Programs

When it comes to motivating employees to deliver their best work, nothing matters more than strong employee incentive programsIn addition to increasing employee retention and productivity, incentivizing employees reinforces your company’s culture and values.

There’s never been a better time to update your methods, and we know just the way to do it. Keep reading for 10 ideas for employee incentive programs that will reward your employees, and boost your bottom line.

10 Ideas for Employee Incentive Programs

1. Go all-in with a recognition program

Bonuses, vacations, and parties are nice, but the foundation of a good employee rewards program is simply recognizing employees for their hard work on a regular basis. In fact, 81% of employees say they’re motivated to do their best work when their bosses show appreciation!

Get the full story in The Science of Recognition and Rewards. (Still need convincing? Check out Why Your Company Needs a Recognition & Rewards program. It’ll blow you — and your C-suite — out of the water.)

2. Show you care custom rewards 

When it comes to gift-giving, one size does not fit all! To find the best bang for your buck, opt for a custom rewards catalog, where team members can rack up points and choose what’s most meaningful to them.

Whether it be company swag, gift cards, monetary rewards, a gym membership, or a complimentary house cleaning, a good catalog has a near-infinite supply of reward ideas to fit every employee.


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

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3. Boost your corporate wellness benefits

We all know being physically healthy boosts our mental and emotional well-being. So incorporating a wellness plan into your incentive program is a win-win: You’re giving employees something they already want, while increasing their ability to bring their best selves to work.

In a world where group yoga classes are out and virtual kickboxing is in, try subsidizing exercise classes and online passes for your employees. It not only shows how much you care — it also boosts employee performance.

4. Invest in educational support

Top talent wants to grow; there’s no doubt about it. In fact, in 2019, the fastest-growing reason for high performers leaving their job for another was a lack of professional development.

Luckily, there are many concrete ways leaders can invest in the continuing education of their employees — like tuition reimbursement, mentorship programs, or a budget for the books, conferences, and webinars that will help them gain new skills. 

5. Audit employer-sponsored benefits

Attractive health benefits are important for filling open positions. But they’re even more important for keeping the employees you already have. The Society for Human Resources Management (SHRM) says that employees who like their health benefits are much more likely to stay at their current job.

Just as important as providing health benefits is giving employees the flexibility to actually use them. Some companies on the cutting edge of talent management are not only giving employees sick days; they’re also giving “healthy days,” which are designed for employees to use for preventative healthcare appointments, and “mental health days” for mental R&R.

Use our article, Perks, Benefits, and Employee Rewards — What’s the Difference? as a guide as you re-examine your current offerings to see what you can do for your staff.


And now, you can manage it all in one place. Learn:
What is an Employee Experience Platform?what is an employee experience platform? it's when everything is working better, together, including your employee incentive program

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6. Lean into flexible scheduling

Now more than ever, protecting work-life balance is important for productivity, retention, and employee engagement. And increasingly, workplaces around the world are realizing that the location, hours and tasks that position one person for success may look very different from the next, especially in a post-pandemic world.

The key here is customization. Work, remote or not, is not black and white. Organizations that offer the flexibility to customize working hours will see more success than those that don’t.

7. Have regular celebrations

Much like showing appreciation, celebrating birthdays, work anniversaries, and other important milestones has a huge return on investment in employee satisfaction, connection to the team, and sense of morale.

We may not always be able to get together for team dinners or celebratory drinks. But 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.

8. Create opportunities for upward mobility

In addition to helping your employees gain new skills, consider filling out your employee incentives programs with opportunities to grow.

Help employees take on higher levels of responsibility within the company, for example, by giving them the ability to apply for open positions before posting to a job board or to social media. If they’re not quite ready for that promotion, offer clear, direct feedback on how they can get there.

9. Foster connection with experiential rewards

While employees love saving that commute time when working from home, the truth is, it can get lonely. But just because you’re not sharing office space doesn’t mean you can’t find some fun team building exercises.

Get creative by adding some experiential employee rewards to your rewards catalog, like a group wine tasting over video chat, 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.

10. Offer half-day Fridays

If your company keeps conventional office hours, giving your employees an early start to their weekend can go a long way. There’s nothing better than being able to recover from a long work week and have the energy to add a little fun into your time off. Employees who return to work on Monday morning feeling energized and refreshed are much more likely to be fully present and productive during the upcoming week.


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.

Kazoo’s employee experience platform lets you manage your entire employee experience in one place by enabling peer-to-peer recognition, behavior bonuses, an employee rewards catalog, and a nominations and awards platform. It’s how our customers are keeping their organizations connected and aligned — so they can keep doing the work they need to do. Find out how we help with the rest.

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