Nine steps to setting up a successful reward scheme

Setting up a staff motivation scheme that is effective and sustainable is far from straightforward. Andrew Johnson, director general of the UK Gift Card and Voucher Association, offers a nine-step guide.

  1. Set goals that are achievable

    Nothing switches someone off more than an objective that seems impossible. Set goals that are realistic and fair. You can offer the best rewards in the world but they will be meaningless if targets are not seen as achievable.

    Objectives must also be relevant to the individual’s job responsibility. Don’t target a sales executive to improve profitability if he or she has no authority to reduce costs or increase prices.

    Perhaps the best way of setting goals is to approach the task from the point of view of the participant. Asking individuals to set their own targets may seem crazy – but is more likely to result in an objective that becomes “ours” rather than “mine” or “yours”.

    Finally, don’t impose across-the-board objectives – remember you’re dealing with individuals.

  2. Communicate effectively

    Communication of a motivation programme to participants must be a clear message that is easily understood. Whether it is conveyed in print, by email or on the internet, participants must buy into the idea and understand exactly what they need to do to achieve objectives and earn rewards.

    This may involve devising measurement structures, creating a branded incentive theme and providing regular updates throughout the programme. However it is done, participants need to know in simple terms what is expected of them.

  3. Have lots of winners

    Being able to recognise and reward all those who have succeeded promotes a more productive and positive environment than one with lots of demotivated losers. Winners must be genuine, but the process can be helped along by the creative use of the reward structure.

  4. Make awards frequently

    Staff need to be kept engaged by a programme as they’ll quickly lose interest if they’re not reminded about the benefits.

    If the campaign is for a year, why not shorten the pay-out horizon to monthly or quarterly? It’s not necessarily about huge reward values but about frequent winners.

    Use your reward budget creatively by reserving an amount for interim awards – this keeps interest levels high and ensures that you recognise success early on in the campaign.

  5. Have a “most improved” reward

    This is a chance to reward average performers. A participant who has a poor performance in a month or a quarter can be revitalised by the opportunity to qualify for an award in the next period based on his/her improvement.

    This method is all about encouragement, spurring people on to keep trying perhaps despite an early poor performance.

  6. Have an employee of the month

    Implementing some short term goals helps to keep people focussed. Criteria could change each month to give everyone the chance to demonstrate a particular skill.

    Again, this gives the average participant a chance to compete and be rewarded.

  7. Present rewards with style

    Presentation of awards is often neglected which underestimates the power of rewarding in public. Your average employee will value the experience of being recognised by his or her manager and peers.

    When the time comes to announce the winners, make that extra effort to get the whole group together to celebrate their successes. This doesn’t have to mean an expensive awards ceremony, just taking time out to present rewards shows the importance of individual contributions and makes people feel valued.

  8. Encourage sustained effort

    Reward high flyers as well as ordinary performers. Cumulative performance should be rewarded over the whole campaign, but if everyone starts afresh each quarter or each month with pluses and minuses wiped out, it gives more people the chance to compete on equal terms.

  9. Choose the right reward

    Cash may seem like the obvious reward, but many employees will use the money to help pay bills, and the reason why they won the reward – improved performance – will quickly be forgotten.

    Gift vouchers allow the employee to choose a reward that will be more memorable – be it jewellery, an electrical gadget, or a weekend away – and make them more likely to sustain their improved performance.


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