In Tough Times, Employees Value Incentives

In the face of tough economic times, employees want their companies to offer incentive programs, and are willing to make sacrifices in order to keep them. A survey from Staples Advantage, the business-to-business division of Staples Inc., finds that 70 percent of employees at companies that do not currently offer incentive programs said they would love to work at a company that does.
The survey, based on the responses of 170 office workers from companies of a range of sizes and industries, also finds that 40 percent would be in favor of foregoing the company holiday party to implement an incentive program, while 30 percent would take on added responsibilities.
This data reflects the importance that employees place on incentive programs, in spite of—or perhaps because of—the economic challenges their companies face.
“In difficult economic times—when bonuses, salary increases and other monetary forms of recognition may be scaled back—it’s especially important to show employees they’re valued,” says Anne McKeough, vice president of Staples Promotional Products. “Recognition programs can be a cost-effective way to do so.”
Indeed, employees already participating in programs agreed by large majorities that their incentive program plays a key role in their work performance. A full 85 percent of respondents say their company’s program makes them feel more valued, while 70 percent feel that incentive awards make them happier and more motivated at work.
But while they agreed about the importance of incentive programs, respondents cite a few areas they feel could be improved. While 45 percent say they would like to see performance awards for mentoring others, 40 percent say there should be recognition for fostering teamwork, and 35 percent cite the importance of driving company morale.
“There is a great emphasis on teamwork in many offices today—which is even reflected in the way those offices are being designed. Cubicle walls are dropping down in height, and many offices are incorporating more open, “teaming” areas to support collaboration,” says McKeough.  “While incentive programs traditionally recognize individual performance and milestones, it makes sense that employees are looking to be recognized in a way that reflects their changing workplace dynamics.”
She adds that companies should not shy away from implementing a reward program or expanding an existing one just for budgetary reasons, and that there has been a growing trend of employees interested in redeeming points for smaller, lower-value rewards.
“Sure, they’d still like that flat-screen TV, but they also appreciate being able to attain an item immediately after being recognized,” says McKeough, pointing to Staples Advantage’s own offerings of rewards, including simple branded promotional products. “It’s a win-win proposition, as employees have opportunities to redeem their points more frequently, and companies are able to promote and enhance their brands.”
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