Employee incentive programs are a great way to encourage specific behaviors, from increasing sales to improving wellness.

 

“In terms of boosting employee engagement, increasing workplace motivation, acknowledging appreciation for good work and driving your team toward its goals, incentive programs are important tools worth trying,” Julie Feece writes for Employee Benefit News.

 

Here are five tips for creating a program that works:

 

1. Create a Program that Reflects Your Business Goals

 

Want employees to do something specific? Make sure your incentive program encourages it.

 

“Depending on what is incentivized, employers can encourage teamwork and cooperation or damage it,” writes Susan M. Heathfield for The Balance. “If you provide an individual sales incentive to sales staff, for example, you guarantee that your sales force will not work together to make sales.”

 

So, don’t forget to start with the big picture in mind when creating a program.

 

2. Make Your Program Reflect Your Culture and Values

 

Not every company’s employees value gift cards, extra time off or even public recognition from the boss. Keep your employees’ preferences in mind.

 

“It’s important to look for an incentive program that provides multiple options for participants to choose from — so you can accommodate multiple interests and tastes,” Feece writes.

 

3. Get the Timing and Structure Right

 

You want to reward employees frequently enough for showcasing the behaviors you’re looking for. But, you don’t want the incentive to stop working, so don’t rely on it too heavily. Make sure your incentives are accessible, too.

 

“Rather than running contests that reward only the top two or three performers, look for incentive programs that reward all the employees who produce good work,” Feece writes. “Make it so that when employees meet certain metrics, they qualify for incentives, regardless of how many other employees do, too. This type of program treats all employees as equal and gives everyone an incentive to work hard.”

 

4. Make the Rules Clear

 

Transparent policies will make your incentive program work for your employees.

 

“Reward and recognition activities that are transparent work to build trust,” Heathfield writes. “If criteria or the recognition process are secret, if they appear to only recognize pet employees, or if they are arbitrary, you risk alienating and demoralizing employees.”

 

Making sure you communicate your program well and often, as well as rewarding every employee who qualifies for your incentive, will go a long way in its success.

 

5. Measure and Adjust

 

“Participation is the best way to gauge the impact of incentive and communications programs, but for a true litmus test of program effectiveness, a deeper look at employee engagement is necessary,” writes Shawn Moore for Employee Benefit Adviser. “A better way to evaluate for impact is to look for persistent engagement — when employees are engaging beyond the expected scope of activity.”

 

If your employees are going above and beyond your incentives, chances are, you’re doing something right.