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Incentivise what Matters!

Posted by: Ruth McKinney

Having spent the past decade providing talent solutions to clients around the globe, I am often asked what I find to be the best way to reward employees to keep them happy, committed and focused.

I have seen everything from cash bonuses, company cars, lunch clubs, holidays, tailored suits, festival tickets, I even had one client tell me they had bought one of their team a puppy for hitting their number! The list goes on. Whilst all these are great, over time most will wear away, the cash will be spent, the car will break down, the memories will fade and old Rover will be in doggy heaven running around playing fetch in the sun (at least that’s what we'll tell the kids).

The other slight downside to these is how to keep making them better. Where do you draw the line without leaving the next wave of goal achievers feeling hard done by? How do we continue to keep our staff happy when the office landscape seems to change daily? How many games of ping pong, or afternoon naps in the sleep pod does it take to keep them committed?

For me, the really successful leaders are the ones who get the basics right and base their incentives on their people. Even with all the advancements in technology, the flight of our happiness comes from the people around us. If your employees know you truly care about them and their families then it doesn’t matter how many food stations or beanbags the office next door has, they will stay with you and commit to helping you achieve the company's goals.

So what are the best things you can give your staff to make them go that extra mile?

Technology to work from anywhere: Modern day platforms allow us to work off our phones or laptops from just about anywhere in the world. If you have real trust and clear goals for your team then you can allow them to manage their targets around their family life. Knowing my partner and I can be at home and online when our daughter is unwell is a huge incentive. I am sure there are a number of mothers/fathers in your office who, if given one day a week to be at home with their children would crush their targets as this is an incentive they would never want to give up.

Extended paternity/maternity leave: Every professional mother will tell you that the first day back to work is probably the most heart breaking that they have had in their careers. On one side they want to challenge themselves to develop and grow in their careers and provide a better life for their baby. On the other, they are a mother so anything not involving the baby doesn’t seem to matter as much anymore. I recently saw a friend post she is heading back to Adobe after having 6 months' paid maternity. How great is that?! Those extra months at home with her baby will far outweigh any holiday incentive in the world and reminds her she is with a business who truly cares about the women who works for them.

Investing in the people around them: The last area where the best companies excel is to not just look at employee but everything around them that matters. Outside of work, what do they love, what do they care about? Most of us are driven to provide for others before ourselves so therefore, we need to build sustainable programmes which focus on that. Rather than a tangible gift, put in something that is long term that they can build and grow. Whether this is sponsoring their child’s schooling or sports team or funding an overseas school to provide education and materials to children less fortunate, reward them by building something that matters. Having incentives that can evolve and grow in the same way their careers do will not only make them feel great it will also show that you are a company that cares about more than just the profit line.

The Cambridge English Dictionary describes Incentive as ‘something that encourages someone to do something’. Ask any of your employees why they get up at 6am every morning, brave the rush hour commute, spend hours in airport waiting lounges and over 50 hours a week in the office you will most likely get a consistent answer: their family. The leaders that build reward schemes with this at the forefront of their minds will not only have the most productive teams, they will also have the happiest.

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