Live from NCOF: Tips for Effective Incentive Programs

Schaumburg, IL–The good news about incentive programs is that they work.

According to Rick Blabolil, president of consultancy Marketing Innovators and a presenter at NCOF on Tuesday, an effectively structured incentive program can increase performance 44% in teams and 25% with individuals.

Incentivized staff, he said, have improved attitudes about their job and the company, and most important, they project those feelings to your customers.

The downside of incentive programs is they tracking their return on investment can be difficult, as can be coming up with incentive programs that are equitable for most of the company’s workforce.

Blabolil offered the following tips for planning an incentive program:

* Tailor the program to the employees, which means understanding them. “Always know your audience. Who are these employees? What income levels do they possess? What education level have they completed?”

* Engage in fact-finding. “You need to do the work up front before starting the incentive program. What external factors are at play? Is there a recession? What’s the job status in your area?

* “Constant communication of the program is key. Too often, companies announce the incentive program, and then that’s the last you hear of it.”

* Be aware of the budget. Set up an Excel spreadsheet to estimate the cost of your program. Run what-if scenarios taking into account whether objectives are met and surpassed.

* Decide how to structure the program. Will it reward teams or individuals? Will you use cash as an incentive or base the prizes on points? “Don’t assume a cash payout is always best. Sometimes a Starbucks card or a gas card will do the trick just as well.”

* Don’t assume that the incentive program will work with all employees. “The 20-60-20 rule applies,” he says, meaning that 20% of your employees will continue to perform at a high level regardless of the incentive program, and another 20% “probably won’t budge.”

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