Choosing Employee Incentive Rewards

Mike Donnelly, president of Hinda Incentives, shares his thoughts on how to choose successful and meaningful rewards and programmes


When it comes to designing a successful incentive programme, what type of rewards will truly motivate employees? Do sole rewards work? Where do you even begin?

In this article, we speak with Mike Donnelly, president of Hinda Incentives, to find out how to craft an incentive programme that truly resonates with people.

What is the first step to crafting a successful incentive programme?
The first step is to define your programme's objectives and determine whether the goals are realistic. An incentive programme can be a very effective way to gain engagement, motivation, and discretionary time and attention. But if you're asking people to travel to the moon on a bicycle, don't expect them to plant your flag up there.

What rewards are employees excited about these days?

For months now, Apple AirPods have been some of our top redeemers in points-based programmes. We're also seeing some increased redemptions in experiential rewards, but often that is related to your programme's award payouts and demographics. On the whole, electronics is almost always the No. 1 category, but you'd probably be surprised at how closely it is followed by housewares.

How do you decide if a particular reward is an appropriate incentive?
It depends on the incentive programme and its participants. For example, offering skydiving or bungee-jumping experiences in a safety programme is sending the wrong message. The biggest mistake I see on the rewards side is managers selecting the awards they want. I can assure you, all of your people are different, and each will be influenced by different rewards. Providing them a rewards portfolio with enough diversity can help them stay engaged throughout your programme.

Which type of incentives do you see appropriate as sole rewards?

I'm not a big fan of a 'sole award' programme. I believe people are unique and will be inspired by different awards that speak to them on a personal level.

Having said that, there are some instances when a sole reward works well. Most notably, top performer sales-recognition programmes. These are the people you simply can't afford to lose. The problem with these types of sole rewards is [that] the rest of your people will disengage with a programme if they perceive no opportunity for them to reap the benefits.

My suggestion is to combine a top performer programme with a 'move the middle' programme, allowing a big part of your audience to earn a small reward for reasonable stretches in their performance.

Mike Donnelly, president of Hinda Incentives, is a 35-year veteran of the incentives, recognition, engagement and loyalty industries. He is responsible for all leadership aspects of Hinda, including sales, marketing, product development, strategic direction and operations.

Latest News