Peer to peer: Incentives can lead to riches

What benefits can my company gain from creating unique incentives?   

Christian Cotichini - CEO, HeroX

From the Longitude Act of 1714 to Google’s 2014 Little Box Challenge, some of the most important breakthroughs in history have been facilitated by the incentive challenge model. That’s not to say, however, that the equation is as simple as “ solution.” When imagining unique and results-driven company incentives, consider the following potential benefits:

• Overcoming fear of the unknown. Larger companies are especially prone to becoming risk-avoidant bureaucracies. Too often this means that opportunities and brushes with genius are overlooked, turned down, ignored or dismissed as irrational.

• Looking beyond the field. Misfit thinkers, outsiders and amateurs are your likely pioneers. Consider that the solution to locating ships at sea was not presented by a navigator, but by a clockmaker. Learn, listen, and share with people who are unfamiliar with your business.

• “No matter who you are, most of the smartest people work for someone else.” This is Joy’s Law. You can struggle against this law and motivate your team to do all the hard thinking, or you can reward the outsourcing mentality that welcomes input and collaboration from beyond your immediate resources.

• Complementary learning systems just work better. Creating incentives for employee self-development will strengthen individual capacity while demonstrating the company’s commitment to employees’ well-being.

• Superior rewards, deep enrichment. People want independence, competence and meaning. Cultivating a company culture that inherently yields these results is a self-sustaining incentive unto itself and is likely to attract top talent as well.

Joe Facciolo – Co-founder, Guusto

Creating unique incentives can be a great way to attract employees who share certain values.

Much has been written about the importance of hiring for personality and fit. This is a practice that I strongly value. Chemistry among team members in the office can result in a positive synergistic effect. Conversely, when the parts don’t fit, it can be disastrous in spite of the unique skills and strengths that each individual may possess.

At Guusto, we offer an instant-gifting platform for busy people and companies to send food, drinks, movies and more to clients, referrals, employees and friends all over the country with savings for the sender and flexibility for the recipients. We are also a purpose-driven company and donate one day of clean drinking water every time a gift is sent. One of the unique incentives that we offer employees is the opportunity to know that their work not only is contributing to the success of the company, but also will benefit people and communities around the world in a tangible way.

Having a greater purpose than profit has allowed us to attract amazing people who value more than self-serving goals, people who are a joy to work with. Prospective employees are often attracted to the company for reasons beyond monetary incentives. In my experience it’s common that these types of people offer more depth than skill alone.

This strategy can extend to any company, and not just social ventures. If your business is in fitness, perhaps you offer healthy lunches. If you’re in child care, maybe it’s a college fund for employees with children.

Whatever it is, if you find a unique incentive that resonates with people who hold values that align with yours, the payoff can be immeasurable.

Roy Osing - Author, Be Different or Be Dead

Incentive programs are capable of achieving not only improved operating and financial performance, but also fun in the workplace with an accompanying boost in employee morale.

But there’s a huge caveat: to be effective, incentives must be driven by the strategy of the organization – they should never have a life of their own.

To make incentives an effective tool, follow these rules:

• Introduce a “strategic filter” to evaluate the worth of any incentive proposal. If a proposal can’t pass the strategic alignment test, modify it so it complies or don’t introduce it. An incentive plan not directly linked to strategy will create dysfunction and confusion in the workplace. 

• Don’t copy what others do. Me-too incentives are boring and show employees that you’re not really interested in creating something special for them. Change what the incentive herd is doing into an approach that you alone provide.

• Use one-time contests liberally in the workplace. They surprise employees and encourage greater participation. I introduced “dumb rules” contests to identify internal rules and policies that customers hated. It worked. Employees had a blast, we made significant progress cleansing our internal environment and customer service improved.

• Pay conspicuous tribute to the achievers in your organization. You want to maximize involvement and realize the corresponding benefits.

• Measure and track the benefits of each incentive program. Learn from how they perform. Eliminate the losers and keep the winners.

• Avoid jumping on the incentives bandwagon unless you put the discipline in place to reap the benefits.