The best ways to incentivize employees in the workplace
Engagement 4 minute read

The best ways to incentivize employees in the workplace

Megan Orr | July 21, 2022

Knowing how to incentivize employees in the workplace is an extremely valuable way to ensure engagement, top performance, and that your employees enjoy their work. Here’s how.

Not everyone needs incentives to do their work, but they certainly don’t hurt. 

Employee incentives—or as Indeed describes it “[rewards] that employers offer their workers to stimulate performance or encourage employee loyalty”—are an integral, but often overlooked part of employee engagement. 

Of course, there is already a pre-built way to incentivize employees in the workplace: paying them in exchange for their labour, with the caveat that poor performance may lead to disciplinary actions or being terminated. Naturally, this way to may lead to employees doing only the bare minimum to stay employed, especially if going above-and-beyond doesn’t lead to any reward or recognition. 

For this reason, it’s crucial that leaders determine how they can incentivize their employees to do their best work. With research showing that “companies using incentive programs reported a 79% success rate in achieving their established goals when the correct reward was offered”, your organization can’t afford to not offer incentives.

The first thing you need to consider is what you want to incentivize employees in the workplace to do. 

Many organizations may find that there’s a disconnect between the incentives they offer employees and what behaviour(s) they’re actually trying to incentivize. Consider pay structures as an example. Commission-based compensation will encourage sales, but not necessarily quality sales that align with company values. Additionally, hourly workers may be encouraged to put in extra hours, whereas their salaried counterparts have little incentive to do the same. 

So, what do you want from your employees? And how can you best motivate them? If you’re dangling a carrot and no one’s reaching for it, it might be time to try a different vegetable. 

There are many ways to incentivize employees in the workplace, some tried-and-true and others less so. 

If you want your employees to perform better, you should incentivize them. Bonuses, perks, performance raises, and, of course, opportunities for advancement are all ways to incentivize employees in the workplace. Want your employees to get more face-time in the office? Incentivize them with a great workspace, free snacks, and A/C to beat the summer heat. 

But why not think a bit outside-the-box to incentivize employees? You could take a page out of The Office’s Andy Bernard’s playbook, and offer to get a tattoo on your butt if your team makes their numbers—“it took ‘em one day!”—or you could go with one of the suggestions below:

  • A classic pie to the face (or a dunk tank, leg waxing… think some sort of mildly embarrassing spectator activity). Looking to get sales up? Want to get more positive customer reviews? Want to increase email sign ups? Why not motivate people with the promise that they can throw a pie in your face if they get the highest numbers of the quarter? It might seem drastic, but this kind of opportunity can really help motivate people. 
  • Throw a party (or two… or three). Organizations that are known for hosting great employee appreciation parties—or generally just do a good job of recognizing their employees—are more likely to have better retention rates. Research shows that 63% of employees who were recognized regularly reported that they were unlikely to look for another job. 
  • Go classic with additional days off. The gift of guilt-free time away from work is a gift that keeps on giving. Employees will appreciate an extra day off here and there, while also coming back to work refreshed. 

An important thing to keep in mind when deciding how to incentivize employees in the workplace is that you want to incentivize everyone equally. Reward top performers, of course, but don’t host parties or other fun events only for them—because if you do,you risk other employees feeling disincentivized and disengaged, and potentially ultimately moving on to another organization.

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