Employee incentives are increasingly popular among employers looking to maintain high levels of employee engagement, retention and satisfaction.
But there's not a single "right" way to incentivize, and much of it depends on who it's for and what the goal is. Do you reward the individual rock-star? Do you reward the best performing team? Knowing when to reward individuals and when to reward teams can help your organization maximize the ROI on your incentive programs.
Incentivizing Collaborative Teams
When you have teams that require each individual to do their job well in order for the group to complete projects on time, you have a collaborative team. Each person does an individual job, contributing to the larger picture (and ultimately organization success).
These types of teams are prime candidates for team incentives. Since they succeed and fail as a team, they should be incentivized and rewarded as a team. Their “above and beyond” behavior that qualifies them to get rewarded happens as a unit. The collaboration and constant communication are indicators that the team’s employees should be rewarded as a unit, according to a new study by Professor Dylan Minor of Northwestern University.
Incentivizing Individual Contributors
Individual rock-stars are easy to identify for incentives and rewards. They always hit their quota, take on new projects, strive to do more work and stick out as a top performer. It’s easy to find them, reward them and keep them engaged not only through incentives like gift cards and bonuses, but also with career-pathing and promotions. Individual contributors can also get rewarded with executive access, and opportunities to provide feedback to the organization’s management. They want influence and longer-term upward mobility as much as they want their next earned incentive.
The tricky part of knowing when to reward individual contributors, is to ensure that they are doing individual work. If there is an individual rock-star on a collaborative team, that can cause friction on the team and for the individual. To create effective incentive programs and long lasting employee engagement, matching the right type of employee to the right type of work to match skills and needs in the most successful way.