Knowledge Center FAQs: Staff Incentives

The budget is tight, but staff incentives don't have to suffer. Here are a few financially friendly alternatives to cash.

Q: We don't have a lot of money in the budget for staff incentives. What can we do instead?

A: There are several ways to recognize employees beyond monetary rewards. The following resources offer excellent advice on how to reward employees for a job well done.

"It's All About Recognition" (Associations Now, July 2007). A Maritz survey found that 55 percent of respondents agreed that their job performance was affected by the organization's reward program. The respondents fell into six categories: award seekers (monetary and trophy); nesters (work-life balance seekers who like flexible scheduling); bottom liners (monetary rewards); freedom yearners (work-life balance and interesting opportunities); praise cravers (verbal or written praise); and upward movers (career advancement). It's important to match the reward to the recipient for the program to be effective.

"The Art of Appreciation," by Bob Nelson (Executive Update, April 2004). Recognition is a top motivator of employee performance, and people want to feel they are making a contribution at work. Survey your employees on how they like to be recognized and reward them accordingly. Employees feel valued when recognition is done in a timely, sincere manner. Make the rewards program fun, simple, and creative. Recognizing high performance will often get a repeat performance, and it's easier to sustain the desired behavior than to create it. Treat your employees as your best assets and your organization will reap the rewards.

"Top 15 Affordable Staff Incentives," by Kim Stoneking, CAE (Great Ideas). Rewards and incentives can make employees feel appreciated and retain them longer. Some suggestions include allowing staff free or discounted computer equipment, special days off (birthday, anniversary, shopping, and so forth), celebrating special occasions (birthday, anniversary, and so forth) with food or a small gift, closing the office for an afternoon, distributing giveaways donated by members such as sporting, special-event, or theater tickets, or handing out gift certificates. Set aside some funds in the budget for the rewards program, and let the finance committee know in order to gain its support.