The 6 employee incentives that could make your team more dedicated, loyal

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Smart CEOs realize that the strength of their company relies heavily on the commitment and dedication of its employees. Looking beyond compensation, incentives and employee benefits are instrumental in attracting and retaining top talent.

When it comes to incentives, the tried-and-true cash bonuses and employee of the month awards (who doesn’t love a pretty plaque on the wall?) still hold value. But there’s more you can do for your employees to make them feel appreciated.

Unlimited vacation and sick days

One benefit you might want to consider for your business is doing away with a formal vacation and sick day policy. By removing a formal vacation policy you allow your employees to self-regulate their time; good, hard-working employees won’t abuse this privilege.

Companies such as Netflix and Virgin have already adopted this philosophy and are already reaping the benefits with loyal staff bases.

While the idea might seem radical at first, in practice it makes a lot of sense. Allowing employees the freedom and flexibility to create their own work/life balance goes a long way in ensuring both their mental and emotional health are seriously considered. Employees feel less anxious about the amount of time they need to save in order to meet their personal obligations which in turn makes them happier employees. And as we noted earlier, happy staff are productive staff.

In its annual Vacation Deprivation Study, Expedia.ca found that on average, Canadians only took 15 vacation days in 2014 and that nearly one in five said they didn’t take all the vacation days they were entitled to.

The survey also found that “the majority of those feeling vacation deprived (59 percent) say it’s because they don’t get enough vacation time.”

There are financial benefits to companies as well, unused vacation days that must be paid out to employees can be very costly to an employer.

Recognize your peers

Recognition from a manager is always appreciated by an employee, but recognition from a peer can sometimes feel even better. Consider implementing a more formal peer-to-peer recognition program to encourage employees from all departments of your business to learn more about areas they don’t work directly in.

Two years ago, LoyaltyOne, a marketing company focused on building and managing loyalty programs, including the Air Miles Reward Program, created a program they call Pass It On.

Using a software platform created by Achievers the program has “not only helped the whole recognition culture that we have, it’s really helped communicate what’s going on in the company,” according to Brenna McGibney, Associate Vice President of Total Rewards at LoyaltyOne.

Every associate at LoyaltyOne is given a budget of Air Miles currency that they can give out for a job well done. “This isn’t just top down recognition, we want it to go up, down, sideways right across the organization,” says McGibney. 

The consumer experience

Understanding your customers’ needs and meeting their expectations is the backbone of any good company. But according to the 2014 Global Workforce Study by Towers Watson, 70 percent of employees agree that “their organization should understand employees to the same degree that employees are expected to understand customers.”

Consider creating a program for your employees like the MOR (Manager Once Removed) initiative LoyaltyOne employees take part in. The conversations between managers and employees are encouraged in an effort “to really understand where they are in their career. What do they need help with in terms of development? What are some of the ideas that they have? It’s a great way for managers to come back and say, ‘this is what I’m hearing’ and ‘should we be doing that?’” says McGibney.

Giving your employees the opportunity for their voice to be heard can go a long way in making them feel like they are active contributors to the direction of the company and therefore, instrumental in the success of the company as a whole.

Let your employees give back

Many companies include volunteering and community involvement as part of their culture. Employees are given a few paid days to volunteer at their favourite charity or community based program.

But some companies like Timberland and SAP go one step further and allow employees to take service sabbaticals.

Giving employees extended time off (four weeks or longer) to pursue interests and causes close to their heart can help reduce employee burnout and create a workplace environment that understands it’s not just about the work that is done in house; it’s about the world as a whole and what we contribute to it.

Companies such as yourSABBATICAL partner with businesses to implement sabbatical programs in an effort to not only attract, but to retain top talent. While fully compensated sabbaticals are ideal from an employee’s perspective, it might not be feasible financially for your business.

But don’t underestimate the idea of unpaid sabbaticals as well. For some employees, just being able to have that time away to do something they feel strongly about (and know that they can return to their job) is a tremendous benefit.

Understand motivation

While this is not a direct incentive, it’s just as important to understand what motivates people as much as it is figuring out how to reward your employees for that motivation. Understanding the difference between extrinsic and intrinsic motivation is the first step. Studies have shown that in fact, while some types of incentives make people work harder, they’re not necessarily working smarter.

In a highly entertaining RSA animate adapted from author Daniel H. Pink’s talk at the RSA, Pink illustrates the hidden truths behind what really motivates us.

Apparently, research shows it comes down to three things.

  • Autonomy – if you want engagement and innovation, self-direction is better.
  • Mastery – we all seek the urge to get better.
  • Purpose – we want to feel that our work is purposeful.

Including these philosophies when creating incentive plans at your company will not only make your team appreciative, but create the kind of corporate culture you can be proud of.

Photo via startinguptips

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Kareen Madian

Kareen Madian

Kareen Madian started her business journalism career as an intern at CNBC. As the Web Editor for MoneySense.ca and Senior Web Editor for CanadianBusiness.com she created and produced content on all matters of business related news. Whether it be personal finance, daily market activity or interviews with some of Canada’s top CEOs, Kareen’s desire to make business news exciting and entertaining for her readers is always her top priority. Kareen is based in Toronto, and in her spare time she enjoys helping the Canadian economy by shopping for shoes. Find her on Twitter here
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