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In today's ever-evolving work environment, keeping employees focused and engaged is essential for success. The default approach for many companies is to reinforce bonuses to incentivize people to continue reaching goals.

However, this approach is ineffective for the majority of employees. A study from the Incentive Research Foundation found that 65% of employees prefer non-cash incentives as rewards for specific achievements.

While cash incentives are highly motivating for lower-wage employees who can use bonuses to make purchases they otherwise wouldn't, they're less memorable for mid-to-high salaried employees.

Top performers are driven by perks that make their lives easier and/or their work more meaningful. Here are five high-impact incentives to motivate remote and hybrid teams.

Photo of a happy employee working at home.

1) Offer Personalized Incentive Options

According to Deloitte's Human Capital Trends report, employees increasingly want personalized rewards based on their performance and preferences. Meeting this need motivates employees by offering incentives that are more meaningful than standard bonuses and allows you to keep your rewards program fresh with new options.

There are two ways to offer personalized incentives:

  1. Sign up for an employee rewards tool like Bucketlist or Snappy Gifts. These programs allow you to set the budget for a reward and give employees the ability to choose from various gifts. This approach is easy to set up and can be quickly scaled to offer a range of incentives, including tiered options, to motivate employees to exceed expectations.
  2. Work with individual employees or teams to create personalized incentives based on their interests. This approach takes more time to set up, but it can be highly motivating by giving employees meaningful rewards to work for. If you go this route, have some guardrails such as budget and frequency to guide your brainstorming discussions.

Regardless of which route you choose, how you message the shift to your employees is critical, especially if you're shifting away from cash incentives. You need to show them how the program will unlock more exciting and useful rewards.

 

2) Arrange Food Delivery

In the office, team meals are an easy way to encourage team bonding and thank employees for their hard work. Whether you'd typically take your team out after completing a big project or order food when they work late to meet a tight deadline, you can replicate the incentive in a remote environment.

To capture as much of the value of meal perks as possible, make a few modifications, including:

  1. Figure out what your employees' favorite local restaurants are or purchase food delivery vouchers so they can choose their food.
  2. Arrange for everyone's food to arrive at approximately the same time and make sure everyone is on video. Your goal should be to create as casual and conversational of an environment as possible.
  3. Consider covering the cost of food for partners and children, even if you don't include them in the conversation. Many of your employees will appreciate not having to make alternative arrangements for their families every time they have a team meal.

With these changes in place, you can use food to incentivize employee performance and stay connected even in the busiest times.

 

3) Offer Virtual Assistant Support

One of the most impactful incentives you can offer high-performing employees is more time to focus on what they do best. Every role has its share of tedious administrative tasks. Offering virtual assistant support allows your team to offload that work in favor of spending more time on projects that excite them.

Virtual assistants can tackle a wide range of tasks, including:

And many other activities.

While hiring freelancers is likely to be more of a management burden than a supportive tool for your employees, a managed virtual assistant service will give your employees all of the benefits of an assistant without the hassle of supervising one.

In addition to handling training and performance management, managed services like Prialto also offer best practices for knowledge sharing and standardization across all of the assistants that support your company.

To learn more about how virtual assistants can support your team, download our guide. 

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4) Give Them Opportunities to Drive Corporate Social Responsibility Initiatives

A May 2020 study found that having the opportunity to get involved with corporate social responsibility initiatives boosts employees' intrinsic motivation. Now, more than ever, employees want to feel like they're helping solve some of the world's challenges. Giving employees who reach objective goals the opportunity to help drive socially responsible initiatives is highly motivating.

Depending on your organization's existing corporate social responsibility programs, there's a variety of ways you can create this incentive, including:

  • Providing guidelines to pitch initiatives to a committee and, if their ideas align with company values, giving them resources to make it a reality
  • Letting them use company tools to do pro bono work for their favorite nonprofits
  • Allowing them to spend a portion of their time working with your corporate social responsibility team on existing projects that they're interested in

If your team relies on everyone operating at full capacity to achieve their goals, this incentive can be contingent upon their sustained performance. Otherwise, you can maximize this reward's appeal by temporarily reducing employees' workload to allow them to dedicate more time to their chosen initiative.

 

5) Create Mentorship Programs for High-Performers

Metanalyses show that mentorship programs boost the job satisfaction and success of mentors and mentees. While every employee should receive on-going, informal mentoring from their direct leaders, you can offer limited availability mentee and mentor opportunities to the top-performing junior employees and senior managers, respectively.

Potential mentees will be incentivized by the chance to receive invaluable career coaching and networking opportunities from the executives they look up to. Mentors will be motivated by the excitement and fresh perspectives that young talent offers.

For best results, make this a formal program with engagement expectations and activities, such as meeting appearances visible to others in your organization.

To prevent your mentorship program from perpetuating inequalities, set transparent and objective goals for inclusion.

Final Thoughts

Adopting employee incentives that appeal to a variety of employee motivators will keep your rewards program fresh and exciting for your entire team. 

About the Author: Emily leads Prialto's content production and distribution team with a special passion for helping people realize success. Her work and collaborations have appeared in Entrepreneur, Inc. and the Observer among others.

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