Survey: Noncash Rewards Boost Performance and Morale

By SHRM Online staff September 6, 2011

Noncash incentive rewards programs, through which employees earn gifts and merchandise for meeting performance-based milestones, help bolster performance and morale, according to a survey of U.S. office workers completed in July 2011.

The survey by Staples Advantage, the business-to-business division of Staples, Inc., queried incentive reward program participants and employees whose companies do not currently offer such programs. For employees that already participate in company-driven incentive programs, participants say the programs have made them:

Feel more valued (85 percent).

Happier and more motivated at work (70 percent).

More loyal to their company (65 percent).

More productive and able to get better results (about 60 percent).

“Employees often love a little extra incentive to achieve goals—and employers are eager to find unique ways to deliver results,” said Anne McKeough, vice president for Staples Promotional Products. “Incentive programs promote a competitive and rewarding culture and, if creatively and effectively implemented, can strengthen company morale.”

Best Practices for Implementation

While incentive programs are often tailored to the needs of individual organizations, there are common elements and best practices that contribute to success. These include:

Aligning the program with established business goals.

Selecting effective rewards.

Promoting involvement from every level of the business.

Incentive program participants’ top three recommendations for improving their companies’ incentive programs were:

Increasing the frequency of rewards (51 percent of respondents).

Offering more reward options (47 percent).

Making it less difficult to earn rewards (36 percent).

Participants also wish their programs recognized them for:

Mentoring others (45 percent).

Fostering teamwork (40 percent).

Working on weekends (35 percent).

Driving company morale (35 percent).

Incentives are often most effective when they’re unique. The top five most sought-after reward categories, according to incentive program participants, are travel, electronics, small household appliances, bags and entertainment.

Respondents recounted some of the most memorable rewards they’d received—spanning everything from mini-fridges and home theaters to trips abroad. More than 60 percent admit to coveting what their co-workers have earned.

Effective Communications

Providing clear and timely communication is key to ensuring that employees know what is available to them and how to attain it. The survey revealed that 81 percent of participants said they’re familiar with the types of rewards available to them through their company’s incentive program. However, 1 in 5 said it isn’t clear to them how to earn rewards, and 1 in 4 isn’t sure how to redeem them. Overall, 47 percent of respondents gave their company’s incentives communications a “C” grade or lower.​


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