The three biggest ways to screw up employee incentive programs — and how you can fix them.

By: Render Dahiya, Arroweye Solutions CEO


The employee incentives industry offers companies a seemingly endless selection of rewards, incentives and gifts designed to help boost employee satisfaction, stimulate sales teams or prioritize one initiative ahead of another. A great incentive program can help achieve any or all of these goals, but without strategic planning can quickly become exceptionally costly, time-consuming and hard to manage. The truth is that not all rewards are created equal. So how do companies streamline incentive programs and drive results?

Here are three of the most common mistakes companies make when leveraging employee incentive programs, as well as some guidance for overcoming them.


Your rewards are not rewarding

Research shows that employees don’t want any more “stuff” — even (or especially) logo wear. They may love their job or your company, but they are buried with branded clothing and tchotchkes. Employees have real-life needs and want rewards of real value. They need extra grocery money, appreciate the chance to splurge on a night out and love the idea of having a little extra cash for online shopping, a trip or holiday gifts.

Instead of offering an XXL shirt with the company logo or a trip that doesn’t fit their personal preferences or schedule, incentivize employees with what they really appreciate most — funds that give them the flexibility to choose what’s most valuable to them at any time. A prepaid card that can be used in-store or online provides that flexibility perfectly.


You’re paying too much to select, order and deliver reward items

The more geographically distributed your staff, the more likely physical rewards are to create headaches, with logistics shipping, inventory, storage, waste, breakage and returns all adding strain for employees. Incentives are all about motivation and building excitement to actually drive people’s behavior, which starts with how incentives are unveiled. If you’re coordinating a reward for a large, widely distributed staff, the easiest way to minimize the “wow” factor of the big motivational company-wide video conference is a missed delivery date of the rewards for one (or several) branches of the company.

Digital rewards like prepaid card accounts can be set up once and funded repeatedly. The entire process can be managed through a centralized dashboard, streamlining delivery and eliminating shipping/returns, waiting and unneeded coordinating.


Your programs aren’t timely or relevant enough.

The time required to set up, order and implement many rewards programs makes spot rewards or on-demand changes almost impossible. This is a huge problem because incentive programs should not just tie directly to business goals and strategies, but also be responsive to changing market conditions or business needs. If market conditions present an opportunity to push a certain product or change your offering, your incentive program should be ready to change with you on the fly so that sales, customer service and implementation teams are aligned. That’s impossible with physical rewards items and sometimes even with traditional incentive card programs.

Today companies can offer custom card campaigns that promote a specific product, goal, season or milestone, designed with just about any image or graphic you can imagine — a perfect solution for incentivizing employees to push a new product or service.

Companies still embracing physical gifts for incentive programs may be losing sight of what their employees really want. Now is the time to re-evaluate your incentive programs and rejuvenate your employees by providing them incentives that they prefer. Make your employees happy by implementing incentive card programs that lets them spend as they please while also reducing stress on your staff. It could be a game-changer.