The 10 Best Employee Incentive Programs

Retaining your best staff is vital to any business’ success.  Sourcing, interviewing, hiring and training replacements will be a drain on your time, not to mention the company’s money.

So, apart from ensuring that your staff have a clear vision as to where their careers are heading with the business, added to the fact that hopefully their job is fulfilling and their pay competitive, what else can you do to maintain the stars within your organisation?

Employee Incentives or staff perks are the little carrot that could make the difference between an employee being satisfied or wanting to leave a firm.

I’ve listed below a quick snapshot of 10 of the best employee incentive programs currently being used by companies.

1. Social and networking events.

Getting staff together for social or networking events is a fantastic way to break down barriers, create strong bonds between team members, and encourage better working relationships.

Whether it’s a simple monthly outing down the local pub for a bite to eat to reward meeting targets or a lavish Christmas function at the end of the year, off-site events will help to create a more cohesive team.

2. Non-sales related bonuses.

Although sales people are obviously what makes the company’s balance sheet tick over, what about cash incentives for those that perform other vital roles within the business?

A bonus program which tracks an employee’s progress on a weekly or monthly basis will give that employee some solid foundations for improvement.

This also gives a manager a good starter for 10 in a one-to-one to understand where the gaps are for development and to gauge how well that employee is performing in relation to their peers.

3. Flexible working hours.

Obviously, not every business has the scope to be able to offer their staff the option of working flexible hours.

But don’t underestimate the importance to some people of taking up this option.

I’ve worked in organisations where you could start an hour early and go home an hour early, which was invaluable for a job that would take me an hour and a half to reach in normal commuting traffic, but half an hour less if I started early and left early.

For others it could mean they can drop the kids off at school or pick them up. This perk is extremely valuable to certain employees and it won’t cost the company a penny extra.

4. Ability to work from home.

This still has a little bit of a stigma attached to it. Some managers still can’t trust that their staff will work as efficiently under their own roof as they would in the office.

Working from home does demand a level of self-discipline that many don’t have. The key to ensuring that your staff work as effectively from home as they would in the office is down to objectives.

As long as you set out a clear outline of what you can expect the staff member to achieve in the time they spend at home, then you should have no complaints.

5. Ability to earn additional days off.

Offering the opportunity to earn additional free days can be extremely desirable for many employees.

Setting up a program where employees can earn additional time off that they can use whenever and however they choose can be a great incentive that shouldn’t cost your business any cash.

6. Opportunities to learn.

With a slowing economy, it’s imperative that employers look to support their best employees in any way they can, in order to retain their services.

One way to encourage employee retention is to reimburse the expense of any training courses or additional education that may be undertaken.

This will demonstrate that you want the employee to grow with the business and will also tie them in to their place of work for a number of years.

7. Health and wellness program.

Gym memberships can be expensive and out of some candidates budget.  But it can be a highly appreciated perk if you set up a corporate membership with a local gym for the staff to use.

If the company’s budget will not stretch to a corporate membership, you could set up discounted rates to join the gym or discounts for the local bicycle shop.

Anything that encourages staff fitness will benefit you in the long term as they likely to perform better and miss less work.

8. Points programme.

This is probably one for larger organisations as it can cost a pretty penny for most SMEs.  Point’s programs work when employees are rewarded for certain behaviours or successes.

The points they collect can be redeemed for a number of items from gift cards, vouchers or even additional holiday.

9. Team and individual incentives.

Individual incentives are obviously what make most people tick in the workplace as they are able to completely control the likelihood of the reward landing.

However, combining both individual and group incentives can be beneficial as it promotes a strong team ethic.

10. Wall of fame.

Staff of the month awards are thought by many businesses to be simply a political exercise.  But celebrating an employee’s success by posting their work on the wall of fame can have a massive boost to morale.

Failing that, how about giving them their own car parking space for a week next to the MD?

It’s the small things that can make all the difference and they won’t cost you a penny.


There is a plethora of employee incentive programs available, some come at a monetary cost, whilst others just require just a little elbow grease to set-up.

The key to success is to figure out which incentives are likely to work best for your company and specifically your team.

I will reiterate though that employee incentives can make the difference between retaining the best talent or losing them to a competitor.

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Paul Corre
Paul Corre
9 years ago

I would add

Stocks and Shares especially early days of business and especially if business is attractive to prospective buyers.

Performance related bonus – I have seen anything from 5% to 90% bonus targets (banking, shipping, tobacco and oil are the high end, IT are at the mid range).

Golden hello – akin to signing on fee.

Retention bonus – especially in a period of uncertainty could be 6-24 months with payments made during that term with a large final figure.