With a large percentage of the baby boomer generation poised for retirement in the next 10 years, the labor force itself is shrinking – meaning the competition for the best (and even just good) employees is going to step up considerably. What can organizations do to increase their chances of recruiting, retaining and motivating quality employees?
But even once you have attracted the high quality employee, is it realistic to expect 100% motivation all of the time? As a Human Resources practitioner, that would be my dream employee. Unfortunately, such a high level of motivation is rare, albeit not unachievable, in today’s workforce. Employees of all ages and skill levels need constant feedback and rewards to encourage and maintain high performance and desired behaviours. Research shows if performance is not recognized and rewarded, it will not be sustained.
Welcome to the wonderful world of incentives! In the corporate world, incentives are used primarily to reward employee excellence, encourage desirable performance, and retain and attract loyal customers. For example, sales people may be rewarded for improving sales, customers may receive a gift for testdriving a new car, and the top store or team could be awarded a cash prize. For years, catalogue merchandise, logo’d items, and cash were the primary tools used to reward and motivate employees.
Organizations are continually searching for new and improved methods to motivate employees and loyal customers and, at the same time, trying to get the most mileage out of an incentive program. In the early 1990’s, I worked for a coal mine that rewarded employees for long service with gifts that could be selected from a catalogue. The gifts were the same year after year and, after some time, rather than feel honored, employees grumbled about the lack of innovation and choice. The reward system had lost its value and effectiveness because the rewards were not directly related to the behaviour and, frankly were not really anything desired by the employees.
Many employers are starting to realize employee incentive programs, especially those targeted at improving employee performance or rewarding customers, get stale pretty fast. Marginal success rates were experienced in the past, but most have not been sustainable partially because the Internet did not exist to glue it together. Because of the internet, it is possible to have large scale incentives programs and to make sure the incentive program is directly applicable to employees to ensure goals are met and desired behaviour actually does occur.
Recognizing there are challenges inherent in setting up an effective incentive program, what can an organization do to ensure success? As managers know, meeting a company objective is the result of the achievement of smaller goals and specific behaviours by teams and individuals on a weekly, daily or even hourly basis, all of which can be managed and rewarded in order to ensure the overall objectives are met. According to Tyler Mitchell, Vice-President of Business Development, for Snowfly Performance Incentives, you “can’t just reward for the big objective such as an increase in sales by 5% – the employee needs to know how to get there and be rewarded for the steps on the way. That, and presenting the program in a fun manner such as a game, is what will result in the ultimate behaviour change. Remember the employees you are trying to motivate have grown up in a gaming environment – playing and watching games on television and electronically.”
Mitchell suggests starting with your biggest objective – such as increasing sales by a specific percentage. Then determine what is required to meet this goal such as monthly, weekly and even daily sales goals. The next level is to determine what is required to make the daily sales – it could be a certain number of cold calls and follow-up calls per day. In order to be able to achieve these daily goals, the employee needs to be showing up for work on time, entering the required data in the data base. Think SMALL! Reward all the behaviours that lead to the final objective and this will increase the likelihood the final goal will be reached.
With all these behaviours to reward, one might think it could become an administrative nightmare but the Internet has made it all possible – it is the glue that holds the incentive program together. New online tracking and incentive management systems such as Snowfly’s SPI system have made it possible to administer and sustain complex incentive programs rewarding unlimited numbers of desirable behaviours. This means the number and kinds of incentives are really limited only to your imagination!
Incentives can now be anything that can help keep the employee or customer interested and engaged. For example, some of the rewards Snowfly customers offer include: prime parking spaces, extended lunches, dress your boss for a day, have the President of your company serve donuts to your team, lunch with the boss, use of a company vehicle for a month, use of the company time share or condo, free flights on the company jet, monthly athletic club memberships, golf with the director, a day off with pay, or the ability to buy a shift change for a month.
Even with a well designed incentive system, you are still left with the problem of making sure it stays fresh and is effective. The system must provide rewards that are meaningful to employees and at the same time, keep employees interested enough to encourage meaningful behaviours. Snowfly has the ultimate solution for keeping employees engaged – games!
Games at work are a hot new area in employee motivation and experts agree playing games and having fun at work have a direct impact on productivity and employee satisfaction. Snowfly uses games combined with technology to make the incentive program fun, thereby keeping employees excited and involved. Using the SPI system, each desired behaviour is awarded a certain number of electronic tokens which the employee then uses to play a game and win points. Some customers choose to have a “Slot Machine” or “Wheel of Fun” style game that allows employees to play their tokens and win 2 to 5000 points. In addition to traditional games, the SPI solution has a feature which enables participants to take educational tests as a reward for completing job tasks. For example, a person who comes to work on time or completes a performance task can now be awarded the opportunity to take a quiz and win points by passing a test. This makes a game out of the learning process.
For example, organizations using the Snowfly system use tokens to reward employees for a desired behaviour such as completing an online training program or being punctual every day in a given week. The person receiving the tokens then goes to the website or game kiosk and plays a Slot Machine game. The employee “pulls” the handle and wins points. The points go in their individual accounts and are redeemed for rewards specifically designed for their wants and needs. Employees are not allowed to bet points already accumulated.
Snowfly customers love the system because it is fun and keeps their employees engaged and interested in the incentive program. Rebecca Boone, of Alliance Data Systems, says “It’s easy, very effective, and has produced measurable results in productivity. We have achieved our ROI goals but most of all, our employees just love it!”
Research also shows effective employee incentive programs pay off in terms of improved performance, lower turnover and happier customers. However, just having an incentive program is no guarantee it will be successful and help to motivate or attract employees. Organizations need to ensure the incentive program rewards the right things, provides meaningful rewards specific to the individual employees and keeps the employees involved.
New online programs allow unlimited awards and the use of games to keep employees engaged and encourage desired behaviours. Experts agree having fun at work is an important component of retaining employees. When games are combined with an incentive program that rewards daily behaviours which lead to desired performance, you will quickly find that getting the best from your employees is an achievable… and maintainable goal.[/cs_text][/cs_column][/cs_row][/cs_section][/cs_content]