The Most Crucial (and frequently omitted) Element for Employee Incentives Success

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There are several variables that have an affect the success (or failure) of your employee incentives programs. The types of rewards, budget allocation, and communication strategy are just a few. These are all very important; I could go in to detail on each and give my advice based on research as well as my own experience. However, that would make for a very long article and quite honestly, I am not a good enough writer to hold your attention. So that being said, I am going to focus on the most important variable, Average Positive Reinforcement Turnaround Time (henceforth referred to as “APRTT”).

APRTT is the employee incentive program’s average elapsed time from when an employee achieves a program goal (or demonstrates a positive behavior) to the time when the employee experiences a desirable outcome as the result. This is a significant determinant in the success of every incentive program. Your incentive program can be perfect in every other way, but the further your APRTT is from immediate, the less effective your program becomes.

Why? Because if an employee, or anyone for that matter, is immediately reinforced positively following a behavior, then that behavior will almost always be repeated. Conversely, the more time that elapses between the behavior and a positive outcome, the less likely it is to be repeated. Behavioral science has proven this to be true. Consider the research conclusions of Keri Kettle and Gerald Haubl with The University of Alberta. Their study involved students who, as part of a university course, had to give an oral presentation to their classmates. Group 1 was told they would receive their grade several days after their presentation. Group 2 was told they would receive their grade immediately. As you would suspect, group two (immediate feedback) achieved higher grades than their counterparts. This study shows that merely the anticipation of immediate reinforcement influences performance (Click HERE if you want to read the full study.)

So the question is how you can reduce your program’s APRTT. First, your employee incentive program needs to utilize some sort of reward currency (i.e. points that can be redeemed for a reward of the recipients choosing). The best thing about point-driven incentive programs is that receiving points for achieving a goal or demonstrating a behavior IS a desirable outcome on its own. From an administrative point of view, it is much easier to quickly communicate to a program participant that they have received points as opposed to trying to be Johnny-on-the-spot with some sort of prize or “attaboy” every single time an employee is deserving of positive reinforcement. This in turn enables you to reinforce employees more frequently which means you can reward them for incremental achievements towards a bigger objective.

Next, take your point-driven program to the next level. Today’s technology combined with your company’s performance tracking systems makes it possible to create a process that will automatically:

  1. Receive raw performance related data
  2. Analyze the raw data
  3. Convert this raw data to points
  4. Place points in an employee’s web-based account
  5. Immediately notify the employee of points received via email or text messaging.

Developing and implementing a process like this can be very complex and will most likely require that you bring in outside resources. However the time and money you dedicate to this will undoubtedly result in a reduced APRTT for your workforce incentive program which will in turn result in quantifiable employee performance improvements and a reduction in administrative time.

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