5 Golden Rules to Setting up an Incentive Programme

The efficacy of incentive programmes is well documented, making it understandable why, according to an Incentive Federation study, 84% of US businesses use rewards to recognise and reward key audiences. South Africa is following suit as more and more companies are implementing incentive programmes to motivate and help improve performance. If this is currently on your agenda, then consider these five golden rules when planning your strategy.


The first step is to define your objectives. If it’s to increase sales, run the numbers – take into account past sales, current sales and desired growth, quantify everything so that you’re able to see what the potential return on investment could be for your business. If your goal is to improve morale, increase productivity or promote innovation, the same principle applies – know what the business objectives are and make sure they’re aligned with the actions being rewarded.


Remember that no two people are alike – what you consider a motivator might not be the case for the person in the next office. Involving your employees and asking for their input, will improve participation and the chances of a successful scheme. And ideally you should tailor the incentive programme to suit specific audiences – your sales team will have different goals to your behind-the-scenes staff so their rewards should reflect this and be structured accordingly.


The principle, keep it simple, should be at the heart of any incentive programme. Rewards and processes should be instantly understood – if it’s too complex or the goals seem unattainable, take-up will drop, participation will dwindle and the scheme will fail. To ensure your money is well spent, simple wins the day – if your employee can explain the programme to you in the same time it takes to do an elevator pitch, you know you’re on the right track.


You may have done your research, personalised the incentives to suit everyone, and kept it simple; but if you don’t communicate the programme properly, your efforts are lost. Employees need to be told exactly how the scheme works – what their goals are, how to get there and what rewards they have to choose from once achieved. There should be regular reminders and feedback; and the frequency of communication should increase as the end date of the programme nears.


Monitor your incentive programme throughout its duration to assess peaks and troughs – when did staff seem most motivated and why; when did participation drop off and could additional communication at that point have made a difference? Regular employee feedback should also form part of the process as it provides vital information on why and where to improve. By measuring, evaluating and refining your incentive programme you ensure even better results in the future.