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3 Tips for Choosing the Best Name for Your Employee Incentive Program

Posted, by Deborah Merkin
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Shakespeare may have been on to something when writing this following line in Romeo and Juliet:

“What’s in a name? That which we call a rose

By any other name would smell as sweet.”

Why's that? Names are important. Even though the star-crossed lovers were madly in love with each other, a last name is what kept them apart.

Whether it’s a pet, a product, or your employee incentive program, a name helps identify something and shapes the way we see it. Certain names have associations—such as Nike with “Just Do It,” or a Montague and “sworn enemy.” Names get us to feel and, consequently, remember things.

With employee incentive programs, you want to focus on creating the right links—not too obvious, but not too cryptic—so employees understand what it is and feel good about participating in the program. 

I’ve rounded up three tips for choosing the best name for your employee incentive program.

1. Reflect Your Culture.


Employee incentive programs need to become a part of your company culture, so ensuring that the name of the program fits with your organization’s internal culture is important. Before jumping into the name, have answers to the following questions:

  • What is the goal of the program?
  • What are my company’s goals?
  • How does the program fit into my company’s goals?
  • What key takeaway do I want our employees to have?

Next, you want the name of the program to convey the themes you explored by answering the questions above. This may seem like a lot of work, but the program name is the first impression employees will have, so it should get to the essence of your goals straightaway.

Take for example a company called Superior Essex. They have an employee program called STAR Employee Program where they recognize an employee who demonstrated STAR qualities: Superior, Teamwork, Attitude, and Results. The name not only frames the employee as a star in front of their peers and managers—and who doesn’t want to be a star in someone’s else’s eyes?—but it also represents how Superior Essex views and values its employees.

Here are a couple more examples:

Example: The “Extra Mile Program” would be a great option for recognizing employees who go above and beyond their core job responsibilities regularly.

Reward Ideas: Your rewards can and should tie into your program’s name. You can make a play on words by choosing a gift card for Uber as your program’s reward. That way, employees who go the extra mile in the office can go those extra miles outside as well.

What to avoid: “Galactic Gratitude Program” is catchy and may be fun, but it probably doesn’t fit your company culture (unless maybe you work at NASA).

2. Inspire Your Employees.




Texas A&M University launched an employee program called “Flourish.” It focuses on employee wellbeing from many angles, not just a physical health one. Take a second, close your eyes, and say “Flourish” to yourself. What comes to mind? Probably images or feelings along the lines of happiness, lightness, and healthiness. The single word taps into a deep desire many people have: to flourish, not just survive.

Here are a couple more examples:

Example: The name “Brilliant Minds” is an inspiring option for an employee continuing education program.

Reward Ideas: Rewards can also support your overall initiative. Try a gift card to Barnes & Noble for employees who complete their ongoing education goal, making it that much easier to buy the books or scholarly items they will need to continue learning.

What to avoid: “Back to Books” could be used for employee education programs, but it frames it as a step back that comes across as a negative move.

3. Make it easy to remember.


What makes something memorable? Simple linguistic tricks like alliteration and rhyming are helpful in remembering the name of something you’ve heard only a few times. However, the easiest way to make something stick to memory is by making it simple, and in this case, as few words as possible.

The name being easy to remember allows a new program to integrate into the existing employee experience. Employee incentive programs should be positive additions to your HR programming and “perks” available to employees. The name of the program being easy to remember supports the positivity. The program shouldn’t feel foreign, it should assimilate into your organizational culture and experience seamlessly.

Both Superior Essex and Texas A&M’s examples from earlier both had two words or less, making it easy to recall the name later on. If you have a lot to incorporate into the name, try following the STAR Employee example and create an anagram.

A couple more examples:

Example: “Wellness Wednesdays” could be a great name for a program sharing health tips weekly and tracking health initiatives. Not only do alliterative names help with memory, but #WellnessWednesday is popular on social media and could be an engagement point internally.

Reward Ideas: One of the best rewards to use for any wellness initiative are gift cards to CVS Pharmacy® because employees will be able to use the reward to directly impact their health in positive ways. That makes it a win-win for you and your team.

What to avoid: A program called “Staying Healthy One Day at a Time” is basic in its convention, but the name is long and is even cumbersome to type out.

Naming your employee incentive program can be a breeze if you follow these tips. Are you inspired to write a few names of your own? Share in a comment below what your program focuses on, and what names you’re considering.

2020 Guide for Employee EngagementReaching and engaging all employees in today’s diverse workforce is a challenge, but we have the tools to help you make an impact in ways that count.

Download our 2020 Employee Reward & Recognition Guide


Originally published Feb 28, 2018

Topics: Employee Engagement

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