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Employee Reward Programs for Mobile Workers

July 29, 2016 by Stacey Papp

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Simple guidelines for creating an incentive program that's aligned with your business' goals and employees' motivations.

Employee recognition and reward programs can be powerful ways to enrich your employees’ experience and build loyalty—all of which can lead to a more effective, efficient and productive workforce. For small and medium sized businesses with mobile workforces, employee reward programs can be even more important. 

Since mobile workers are out of sight for most of the workday, it can be a challenge for them to feel connected to the company. Recognition programs can help build that important connection and motivate your mobile workers to strive for the goals you set. Employee recognition programs don’t have to be complicated or expensive. In this article, we will show you the four steps to follow to create a program that works for your employees and your business.

Put your workers first

The first thing to consider is why you're creating an employee rewards program. While such a program could very well have beneficial effects such as increased productivity and efficiency, it’s important that you don’t approach it with that goal in mind. Employees will spot—and potentially resent—a program designed simply to boost profits. It could backfire. Ultimately, the goal should be to enrich your employees’ experience of working for you; and the side effects of happy, fulfilled employees will provide benefits all around.

Find what matters

Flesh out some ideas for what the rewards program should look like. Allow your employees to be your guide here as they are most able to tell you what will appeal to them.

Talk to them. One-on-one conversations with your employees can give you valuable information on what’s important to them and how they feel about the company. This will give you guidance on what kind of rewards will most resonate with them.

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If you don’t have time or proximity to talk to employees face-to-face, or if they’re holding their cards close to the vest, try an anonymous survey about what employees would like to see in a rewards program. Anonymity is a good tool to reassure people that their opinions won’t be used against them, so you might be likely to get more complete answers if the one-on-one approach isn’t working.

In addition to developing ideas for how to reward employees, you should commit to the program. Make sure that there is a budget available to pay for the program if necessary, but keep in mind that this type of program can often be put together with little or no cost. Verbal or written accolades given in front of an employee’s peers can be as or more effective as a gift.

Create a rewards committee

Someone will have to manage the process, and like most things a group to divide the work is better than putting it all on one individual.

Create a committee – no matter how small – that develops the awards and the criteria for recognition and handles doling out the accolades. This will help ensure consistency and constancy and protect against the practice falling to the wayside or changing so much it loses value.

Make sure that managers get involved in the process of rewarding employees. While an award that comes from the HR department has value, it’s more meaningful when senior management gets involved in giving out recognition. People prefer to be recognized by the people they work with and for, not just by an arbitrary department to which they are only distantly connected.

Determine the awards

Now the rubber meets the road. What should the awards be? Here’s some ideas you can use – or prompt you to develop you own ideas:

Peer-to-peer: Here’s a good way to get the workers engaged in the process. Create an award that they can nominate each other for. This way, employees will feel valued by both their peers and their managers, who might decide on the final recipient.

Not every award needs to be explicitly linked to performance measures. Recognize employee anniversaries and life events to help build and maintain a sense of community. Most offices have a ringleader who would love to track and plan these events – let them run with it. And for larger anniversaries (10 years, 20 years, etc.), you can plan something bigger, maybe with a gift attached.

You can get a lot of mileage out of awards that have no cost at all. A note of recognition and thanks from a manager is a valued reward for any employee. If you want to go beyond an e-mail or written note, Microsoft Word has award certificate templates that can be customized to use as awards for employees – something to post in a cubicle as recognition of good work. It reinforces the value that the employee brings to the company and reminds them of how important they are. The lack of such recognition leads employees to feel isolated and unwanted – causing unhappiness and under-performance and often driving them away.

If you have the budget for it, small to medium tokens of appreciation can really show employees that they are appreciated, whether they be for individuals or for the group. Make sure to check any tax implications with your accounting department, though.

  • Gift cards are always appreciated and useful gifts.
  • Extra time off is a reward that any employee would appreciate.
  • Plaques or trophies for “Employee of the Month, Quarter, Year, etc.” is something a worker can display with pride.
  • Ice cream days or lunch brought in for employees lets them know they are valued.
  • Employee outings like picnics or activities such as bowling are great rewards and foster community among workers.

There are lots of ideas out there for employee recognition programs. Do your homework and be creative, and you’ll be on your way to showing your staff just how vital they are to your operations.

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