June 1, 2018

Money isn’t employees’ only motivation. More staffers want incentives and recognition.

Engaged EmployeesOne of the toughest parts of running a business is keeping staff for the long-term. So, when Greg Mondshein opened Source Code Communications, a New York-based public relations firm, last year, and began hiring employees — he now has six not including him and his co-founder — he made a point to treat them well. That includes paying above average salaries, but it also involves perks and incentives.

Add-ons like work from home options, free gym memberships, and other incentives keep people engaged, happy, and hard at work. “When you demonstrate that you care about your people it inspires more loyalty,” he says. “We make sure people are happy and not overworked.”

Motivation matters

Like Source Code, an increasing number of companies are offering incentives to employees to help keep them satisfied at the office. According to the Incentive Research Foundation, incentive programs that involve money or tangible rewards can increase one’s individual performance by an average of 22 percent. Other kinds of “incentives” — like saying “thank you” and making eye contact with staff works, too. One study found that 70 percent of employees would feel more motivated if their mangers expressed thanks more often.

“Now, more than ever, incentives will become an important driver of behavior for the new and existing employees in today’s workforce where retaining human capital is an extremely competitive proposition,” says Eve Kolakowski, president and COO of Rymax Marketing Services, a loyalty marketing and incentives provider. Rymax works with nearly 400 premium brands, many of which other loyalty companies don’t offer, and carefully selects products and identifies the rewards that will resonate with the audience. Their unique offerings include a range of trending products, from Amazon Echo voice-activated devices and Klipsch all sport in-ear headphones to Rebecca Minkoff backpacks and even a modernized classic Victrola turntable that will play your music whether it’s on vinyl, CD, or a Bluetooth-enabled device.

Reaping rewards

But how can companies implement employee incentive programs? Business owners can go Mondshein’s more informal route and take everyone out to a concert, or they can create another type of event. Rymax’s R-SITE program transforms their “catalog” into a live event. Think of it as a pop-up store or an event with booths and music where people can walk between tables and pick what they’d like.

It’s also important that recognition is not a once a year thing that’s tied into an annual review. Rymax creates points-based programs for clients that allow employees to earn points throughout the year, choosing to redeem them right away or to accumulate them for bigger incentives. A survey revealed that the entire workforce found the incentives program to be a valued perk.

The strength of Rymax’s programs is the fact that they are customized for the audience. That’s the key component in creating strong incentive programs, says Dean Miles, founder and resident of Colorado Springs-based Bridgepoint Coaching and Strategy Group. “[I]f you can add authentic recognition that’s sincere and personal, then it takes that item you select to a whole new level,” he says.

Keep staff engaged

While more businesses are offering incentives, the ones that haven’t implemented a program will need to soon, or risk losing employees to the competition. There’s no such thing as a career worker anymore, which means companies must find effective ways to retain staff, Miles says.

For Mondshein, that means introducing a 401(k), which he hopes to do soon, and he plans on renting a summer house in the Hamptons where his employees can work for a week.

It is expensive to do some of these things, he says, but there is a return on investment. His six staffers are happy to come to the office, they work harder when they’re there and he believes they’ll stick around. “We want people to go home happy,” he says. “If you recognize good work and treat employees as you would treat your friends then they’ll care about your business.”

And that recognition needs to be personalized and ongoing, Kolakowski says. “Incentives play an important role in creating a positive work environment, wherein employees feel recognized and valued,” she adds.

Eve Kolakowski is President and COO at Rymax Marketing Services, Inc.

This article originally appeared on inc.com.

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