End of Year Rewards – What Works, What Doesn’t

Most successful companies know that employees are their most valuable assets and that by treating them well they improve their bottom line and increase staff retention. It was Sir Richard Branson who said that happy employees lead to happy customers and that you should ‘train people well enough so they can leave, [but] treat them well enough so they don’t want to.’

As we therefore approach the end of another year, and energy levels begins to lag, how do we ‘treat them well enough’, what rewards inspire and motivate effectively, and what should we remember in our approach when planning and implementing these incentives?

First and foremost, whether there’s a tangible reward or not, there should always be a sincere acknowledgement and thank you for the work done in the year. It may seem old-fashioned, but showing gratitude and kindness helps build a collaborative and supportive workplace culture – in fact, kindness is so highly valued that an NBC News survey found that 70% of participants would forego a 10% raise in exchange for a kinder boss.

Whatever shape your reward may take, it should be well thought out, planned in advance, and most importantly, it should be well communicated. When companies fail to explain the reward or bonus, staff aren’t always sure why they’re receiving it (is it a gift or something they’re entitled to?) all of which undermines the efficacy of the incentive. A 2014 Edenred study showed that when rewards were poorly communicated and executed: 34% of employees had lost, discarded or simply not received a Christmas reward given to them by their employer; and 9% of employees couldn’t even remember whether they’d been given a Christmas reward or not the previous year.

When deciding upon a specific reward or programme, consider what people value the most, and the best way to ascertain this is to ask them. Manage expectation by deciding beforehand what your budget is and the nature of rewards within your reach, and then turn to your staff and ask them what they’d prefer – giving them a choice is in itself empowering. If you’re thinking of including a cash bonus as an option, consider that it might not always have the greatest impact – money added to salaries is too quickly spent paying bills and covering holiday spending, whereas tangible non-cash rewards can have a longer lasting and more meaningful effect. But ultimately, by knowing what your employees want, you ensure your money is well-spent and you maximise motivation.

For more on how to reward, recognise and incentivise staff effectively, contact The Incentive Company – with more than 65 years combined industry experience, they can help you change behaviour and improve your bottom line.