Employee Incentives on a Budget
By Paige L. McAllister, SPHR
HR Affinity Group
In the work we do to help companies enhance their employee engagement programs, we are often asked for ideas on effective but inexpensive employee incentives. While big bonuses and pay raises are nice, there are also many ways to recognize individuals, groups or the whole company without having to spend a lot of money. Here are 10 cost-effective and creative employee incentive ideas for companies of all sizes:
- Car Wash – Consider hiring a mobile carwash service to come onsite once a week to wash and detail cars. You can pick up the cost or let employees pay directly.
- Dream managers – Inspired by the book of the same name by Matthew Kelly, dream managers are coaches who meet with your employees one-on-one, once a month, to explore their dreams and then help them set a path to reach them. The cost is minimal and the results can be profound.
- Employee Assistance Program (EAP) – Offer an EAP program along with your benefit package. EAP services typically include nutrition and health counseling, legal assistance, smoking cessation programs and psychological counseling. Inexpensive to offer, EAP’s give your employees resources to help them with a wide-range of issues, usually for free or reduced-rates by outside providers.
- Errand runner – Hire someone to run errands for employees during busy times. While the employee will pay for the actual service (i.e., package delivery, dry cleaning, library book returns), the company can pay a part-timer to actually run the errands. This is a small investment that is often greatly appreciated by the workforce.
- Parking space – Dedicate a prime parking space for the employee who is recognized each month, quarter, etc. Make sure the spot is right up front and, if possible, have the parking spot labeled to celebrate the employee’s accomplishment.
- Personal Services – Hire a beautician, barber, manicurist or masseuse to come to the office once a week to provide their personal services. You can even consider subsidizing some of the cost.
- Play time – Bring in a Wii or other play system and have virtual team bowling, boxing or tennis tournaments. Put up a tournament board so that you can keep track of the results over time. Each game is relatively short but the fun lasts a long time. You can also keep fun board games and puzzles in the lunch room ready to be played during lunch and break time.
- Quiet room – Dedicate a room to quiet time, relaxation or reflection. You can even hire a coach to come in once a month or so to teach relaxation techniques. Make it comfortable and welcoming. Let employees schedule to use it on their breaks or when they just need a few minutes to de-stress.
- Sabbatical leave – Consider allowing your employees, after five or seven years of service, a month or six weeks off with pay and benefits to pursue a personal interest. It is cost-neutral to the employer in that there is no added cash outlay beyond the pay and benefits the employee normally earns and it gives your other employees time to cross train on the vacant position. And while it may be a burden for the employees left to fill in during the leave, they will be willing to do so knowing their own sabbatical benefit will one day come.
- Volunteerism Day – As a reward, allow an employee to pick a cause and dedicate a day or a half-day for employees to give back to the community. This way, the employee is rewarded by knowing he or she will be able to have the company support an important cause and the team will be able to give back and will learn more about the interests and concerns of their coworkers.
As you can see, it’s not always about the money. You can even create a competition for employees to come up with the best, cost-neutral, incentive program themselves. Home-grown programs are always more meaningful. And remember the most powerful and effective sign of appreciation – a sincere, personal “Thank You.”
Paige McAllister is a contributor for Affinity HR Group, LLC, IIABNY’s affiliated human resources partner. Affinity HR Group specializes in providing human resources assistance to associations such as IIABNY and their member companies. To learn more, visit www.affinityHRgroup.com.