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I was meeting with a client yesterday to discuss implementing a new company incentive program. The company had been going through a restructuring, laying off about 10% of their employees. Some had been offered employment with the new outsourced partner, but the remaining were the low achievers being let go for poor performance.
As head of HR, her concerns were for the remaining 90% of employees. Many would be moving to new departments and locations with new managers. How was she going to make sure they understood how important they are to the overall continued success of the company?
There are many types of incentive programs her company can implement. We discussed programs that can increase their productivity and sales or that would boost morale and encourage teamwork within their new team. In the long run, her goal was to improve the overall job satisfaction of the employees still on the job. We discussed how the program needs to not only recognize their performance but should motivate and engage the employees as well.
Of course, all of this has to go to improving the overall bottom line of the company. She wanted to make sure that “spending” money wasn’t going to send the wrong message given the layoffs. So we discussed some ways companies build morale and teamwork without spending a lot of money, if any.
I was visiting a company in Iowa in February once (really, what was I thinking?) and they had a different group activity once a month. I happened to be there for ice bowling. They literally had frozen 1.5 liter bottles that were the “pins” lined up appropriately in the parking lot and used a rubber ball to knock them down. There were 6 teams competing (representing the various departments) and the camaraderie was amazing. It relieved stress, got them outdoors (ok, maybe that wasn’t the best part – but they didn’t seem to mind) and they all LOVED working for the company.
Another company instituted the joke of the month contest. Now, this contest is one where you need to have very strict rules so as not to offend anyone but for them it was great. Every day new jokes would be released periodically and the employees would score it based on originality, humor level and overall appeal. Scoring became similar to the Olympics. Each individual striving to achieve the status of the best joke of the day/week/month.
They were not allowed to search for their jokes during business hours (unless it was their lunch break) but as they were released you could hear laughter throughout the open plan office. You might think it would be too disruptive, but the company recognized that their employees were under a tremendous level of stress and this was a great way to give them a quick release.
Not surprisingly, they say they have recognized an overall increase in productivity!
Another client has an even more unique to way to build morale and teamwork. They have regular charity programs they participate in – spending a weekend building a house with Habitat for Humanity, volunteering at a local food bank serving meals, and working with at risk children. The employees embrace the philanthropic nature and when a sign-up sheet goes up for an upcoming project it’s usually filled within a couple of hours.
Being a dog lover myself, I love that many companies have bring your dog to work. Some allow it weekly or monthly, some even allow it daily.
Some may argue that these examples are not true “incentive” programs, but If it keeps the employees happy and wanting to come to work every day. That’s an effective incentive.