5 reasons incentive schemes fail

Richard Ellis of AVC Wise shares his thoughts on how to make your employee benefits scheme work for your business.

There are some in HR circles that believe employee benefits and incentive schemes have never been so important.  

With more people working from home, they say, efforts to keep employees connected and motivated has become a bigger priority than in previous years.  

But what’s the difference between successful employee benefits and incentives, and a failed scheme? While there may be some ideas out there that really don’t deliver any value, generally most schemes do work. But it’s the way they’re chosen and implemented that can be the difference between success and failure.  

Here are five reasons your benefits and incentives may not be working. 

You don’t have any clear objectives for the scheme

Benefits and incentives are not a one-size-fits all solution and therefore if you haven’t defined what you want to achieve you may have the wrong scheme. In many cases it is necessary to have number of different incentives for different objectives. For example, rewards for hitting targets are great if you want employees to up their game for a period of time, but they won’t necessarily impact on staff turnover.

That said, some incentives do work on several levels. A gym membership scheme not only increases employee engagement and staff retention, but can have an impact on productivity because it also improves your employees’ wellbeing – provided they go to the gym!

The rewards and incentives are not relevant to your staff

Incentives don’t motivate people unless they see value in the reward. That doesn’t mean it has to have a monetary value (although it can help), but it does need to be meaningful. If you have a large workforce your incentives will need to work for a range of people with different motivations. This is why offering a variety of rewards is a good idea; employees can then choose the ones that are relevant to them.

Your incentives or rewards only work for a minority

This is an issue when rewards are target driven, for example when a sales rep brings in a certain amount of business or a customer service team scores a specific customer satisfaction rating. It is likely that you will have staff who perform at various levels, some functions will be target driven, others not. New members of staff may not even have contact with customers who can help them fulfil these targets, so they don’t stand a chance.

Therefore, it is essential that your rewards are fair, that all employees can potentially be rewarded and that targets are based on employees’ roles, experience, seniority, and any other factors.

You haven’t explained what the benefits are

We would recommend that incentive schemes are introduced in collaboration with your employees, that their views are sought before introducing a scheme, and that this feedback helps determine what the benefit and incentives are. This results in better engagement and take up by members of staff, and you will see positive benefits quicker.

However, many employers launch a scheme without any consultation beforehand. That doesn’t mean it will fail but it is important to educate everyone about the scheme, explain the benefits for employees, how it works, and then promote it proactively.

Your rewards are short-lived

While most employees would welcome a cash incentive or a gift as a bonus for their hard work, these kinds of rewards are short-lived. They can work well when you want to increase performance for a short period of time – meeting a deadline, completing a project, hitting a target – but they are soon forgotten and therefore don’t deliver any lasting benefits to the employer.

For incentives that have staying power look for schemes that deliver long term benefits, such as savings on day-to-day living expenses or incentives that improve your employees’ wellbeing. Furthermore, keep promoting these schemes to remind employees that they’re available and that they are benefiting from them.

More on incentive schemes

How incentive and reward schemes can motivate staff to go the extra mile

Are your employees using the free services that come with their benefits?

Dom Walbanke

Dom Walbanke

Dom is a feature writer for Growth Business and Small Business, focused on matters concerning start-ups and scale-ups. He has also been published in the Independent, FourFourTwo magazine and various lifestyle...