10 Employee Incentive Programs to Motivate Your Team

Employee incentive programs are a powerful tool to motivate your team and keep them engaged in their work.

February 21, 2024
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Employee incentive programs are a powerful tool to motivate your team, keep them engaged in their work, and positively affect employee performance. The effective employee incentive programs vary widely by industry and almost always have a positive impact. These programs vary widely by industry, but they all share two key elements: rewarding employees for doing something beneficial to the organization, and providing a tangible sense of accomplishment. There are all sorts of motivational techniques for recognizing employees out there, but they're not a one-size-fits-all approach when it comes to motivation. In fact, many don't work at all. 

So let's explore just how much employee incentive programs can boost employee morale and what different employee incentive plans can look like!

What are employee incentive programs?

Employee incentive programs are formal and informal methods of encouraging employees to improve their performance. They often use positive reinforcement to reward employees for their good work. There are many ways to set up an employee incentive plan, but they all have one thing in common: They're designed to encourage productivity, recognize employees, and to reach higher performance levels.

Employee incentives programs work in a wide variety of settings. A list of incentives for employees might include monetary incentives ( for example, giving out bonuses or prizes) to its best employees. They may also have more access to existing benefits, such as more coverage for health insurance. They can also offer rewards for goals that everyone agrees on (such as meeting quotas).

In addition to financial incentives, some companies give out trophies or certificates as rewards for reaching certain milestones as a part of their staff incentive program. These awards don't necessarily have monetary value, but they still serve as positive reinforcement for employees who reach certain goals within the company and help create an effective employee incentive program.

Schedule a time for a quick chat to learn more about how Assembly can help you create corporate incentive programs and get more incentive plan examples.

But, do employee incentive schemes improve their work? The answer is yes — with some caveats.

According to a study by Incentive Research Foundation, 88% of top-performing companies are more likely to reward their employees with non-cash rewards and recognition programs.

Incentive programs are most effective when they are designed with specific goals in mind and when they align with company culture and values. For instance, if you want to increase sales, you need to design your program around that goal. Similarly, if you're going to improve customer service ratings or employee motivation, you'll want your program to focus on that metric.

Incentive programs can also be more effective when employees feel like their contributions are valued by management and other colleagues. So, it's not just about what they get out of it but also what they give back.

Finally, don't forget that incentives will not work in every company the same way because of factors such as size or industry type.

What are the three types of employee reward programs or incentives?

  1. Financial incentives: Cash bonuses, stock options, and other forms of compensation.
  2. Recognition incentives: Promotion, public recognition, and other forms of recognition.
  3. Social incentives: Increased job security, better working conditions, and employee benefits such as medical insurance and paid time off.

How do I create an employee incentive program? — 5 steps

Step 1: Define your goals. 

What are you trying to achieve? Is it improved efficiency, customer satisfaction, or revenue growth? Once you have defined your goals, document them and ensure everyone is on the same page.

Step 2: Know your audience. 

Who will be participating in your program? Employees from every department should be represented, as well as those who work with customers directly.

Step 3: Identify potential incentives. 

Think about what each team member cares about most, then brainstorm ways to reward them for achieving the desired results. Employee rewards can be monetary or non-cash prizes that are meaningful and relevant to your employees' interests and passions.

Step 4: Set up a system for tracking progress toward goals. 

Once you've decided on your goals and incentives, it's time to set up a system for tracking employees' progress toward those goals. This is where most incentive programs fall short. They don't have a way to measure whether or not employees are reaching their goals, so they don't know if they should be rewarded.

Step 5: Reward success. 

An employee incentive program can have a significant impact on your organization, but it only works if everyone knows about it. A great way to make sure everyone knows about your program is to reward success.

When an employee does something good, make sure they know about it. Make sure their performance is recognized and rewarded. This helps build morale and shows other employees that you are serious about rewarding them for their hard work.

Bonus step: Get feedback from employees.

Make sure you give your employees a chance to provide feedback on your employee incentive programs. You want to ensure that what you're offering is useful and effective for them, so be sure to ask for feedback at every implementation stage.

What are the best employee incentive program examples to motivate employees?

While it's important to offer incentive schemes for employees with a variety of incentives, some stand out as better than others.

What are some sample incentive program for employees?

  1. A raise
  2. A bonus
  3. Employee recognition awards and programs.
  4. Training and learning opportunities
  5. Flexible schedules
  6. Improved benefits packages
  7. Holiday parties or celebrations
  8. Paid time off (PTO) accrual bonuses or unlimited vacation policies
  9. Company-sponsored fun days, outings, and events like happy hours or parties
  10. Customized recognition programs

See the fun and engaging staff incentive ideas for employees that one of Assembly's customers has implemented:

Employee incentives can be anything from a simple thank you card to a cash prize. It's important that you choose the right incentive program for your business.

Wondering what is an example of an incentive program? Here are 10 employee incentive programs to help get your creative juices flowing:

10 employee incentive programs and workplace incentive ideas to help motivate your team

  1. Recognition Programs

An employee recognition program encourages workers to recognize each other for outstanding achievements or contributions within the company. This type of program creates a positive culture where employees feel free to recognize one another and build camaraderie among coworkers. 

Many companies have found Assembly's Recognition Flow to be a powerful tool for creating a structured way for employees to celebrate their teammates. Celebrating employees for their good work doesn't have to be a hassle; the workflow makes it easy.

To learn more about Assembly's Recognition Program, book a demo here.

  1. Employee Referral Programs

Employee referral programs are a great way to get more people on board and keep your employees engaged in the hiring process. It's an opportunity for them to take pride in their company, get rewarded for helping out, and connect with potential new hires.

The best employee referral programs don't just involve passive referrals from existing employees. They also give employees a chance to actively participate in the process by asking candidates questions, participating in interviews, and helping onboard new hires.

  1. Stock Options and Employee Ownership Programs

One of the best things about employee-owned companies is that they tend to have a strong sense of community. Employees feel connected to their work and one another, leading to higher levels of engagement and productivity. When workers feel like part-owners, they're more likely to take pride in their company's success and want it to succeed even more.

  1. Profit-sharing plans

Profit-sharing plans can be defined in two ways: as part of an employee incentive program or as an employee benefit program. For example, some companies offer profit-sharing plans to encourage workers to work hard and increase productivity. Other companies use profit sharing as an employee benefit because it's required by law for certain types of employees (such as executives).

  1. Workplace Wellness Programs

Workplace wellness incentives are an essential part of keeping your employees healthy. A healthy employee is not just more productive but also happier and more likely to stay with the company. The benefits of workplace wellness programs include:

  • Reduced healthcare costs
  • Improved productivity
  • Improved morale
  • Decreased absenteeism

Use Assembly's Wellness Incentives Flow to reward your team for their steps towards improving their health and wellness. These rewards keep your employees motivated and on track to reach their respective wellness goals.

  1. Education Assistance Programs

Education assistance programs are a great way to help your employees realize their goals. These programs are learning-based incentives and can be structured in various ways to include a wide range of benefits. The key is to keep your employees motivated and engaged in their work by helping them achieve their personal goals. These types of programs can be structured in many different ways, including:

  • Tuition reimbursement
  • Student loan repayment
  • On-campus classes paid for by the company
  1. Flexible Work Arrangements

Flexible work arrangements are a great way to motivate employees. They want to work harder when they know they will be rewarded for doing so and having the flexibility to do their work at home or while working from different locations is an incentive that can help them do their best.

  1. Professional Development Opportunities

If your employees are hungry for more knowledge and skills, consider offering them professional development opportunities that will help them advance their careers. For example, if there's a certification or degree program they're interested in pursuing, provide funding or other assistance so they can get it done quickly. This shows that you care about their personal growth as well as the company's bottom line.

  1. Additional Time Off

When your team members feel valued and appreciated, they'll be more motivated to do their best work. One way to show them how much you appreciate them is by giving them extra time off. This doesn't necessarily have to mean vacation days; it could mean an afternoon off each week or an additional half-day on Fridays.

  1. Awards Programs

Incentive programs are well known because they provide an immediate reward for an employee's hard work and achievement. Awards programs can be just as effective at motivating employees because they recognize accomplishments over time rather than just once per year. 

Instead of always giving out cash bonuses each quarter, create a system where each quarter, one person from each department receives a certificate recognizing their contributions over the past few months. These certificates can be presented at company meetings or even distributed via email. You can automate this entire process with the Employee Nominations Flow. It makes engaging employees and having them nominate someone for a good job seamless.

Building a culture of recognition

In the end, motivating your team should be a relatively simple matter of understanding them and building a consistent reward program.

Once you know your team's wants and needs, you can tailor various incentives to meet those needs. That way, you can make employees happy even without a raise.

Once you know your team's wants and needs, you can tailor various incentives to meet those needs. Sometimes it's as simple as providing opportunities for growth within your company. Other times, it might be as complex as providing bonuses to increase productivity. The goal is to tailor each incentive program specifically to the needs of your employees, whether they're individuals or a cohesive unit being organized into a department.

Assembly makes it easy to motivate and unite employees. Reimagine your recognition program with a quick demo.

Browse our Free Employee Recognition Guide

Get the foundational knowledge on creating an employee recognition program that boosts employee engagement and helps them feel valued.

Explore Guide

Frequently Asked Questions

Is Assembly SOC 2 compliant?

Yes, at Assembly, security is a top priority. Each quarter, we have ongoing security work that is everyone’s responsibility. While we maintain a strong security posture, it was important for us to prove to our customers that we do everything we claim to do. This led us to pursue a SOC 2 Type II report that would provide evidence of our compliance with industry gold-standard security practice.

What's the ROI for employee recognition?

There is study after study showing that employee recognition leads to increased engagement. This in return creates an environment where employees are happier and more motivated which increase productivity and reduces voluntary turnover significantly. In order to filled critical roles, companies tend to spend nearly twice the value of an annual salary. Assembly is an investment in your employees that supports your bottom line.

Does Assembly offer longer-term contracts?

Yes, we will offer contracts for companies with longer-term agreements to help larger customers have more certainty around future costs.

The minimum agreement term is a 12-month subscription.

Does Assembly offer onboarding support?

We do and for FREE! Any new customer needing further support to get started with Assembly to ensure you're set up for success can request custom onboarding support. Improving your employee experience is about much more than just using our amazing software; it’s about transforming your business to create a workplace that people love. That’s much easier to do with the personal support and advice from our passionate people experts.

Is there a free version of Assembly?

Yes. We offer a completely free plan for up to 50 team members. This plan is intended for teams or organizations that are looking to get started with an employee engagement tool. Keep in mind, this plan is limited in features.

All customers can open an Assembly account for free and get started without a credit card. Then you can change plans as necessary.

How much do rewards cost?

At the time of redemption (when your employees exchange their points for a paid reward) you'll pay face value. If a reward is a $10 Amazon gift card, your cost will be $10. All paid rewards are billed for on a monthly basis.

The good news is that you don't have to pay for rewards upfront because we only charge you when points are redeemed, not when they're earned.

Does Assembly offer discounts?

We offer discounts or educational or charitable organizations. In order to secure a discount, you'll first need to book a demo with a customer support specialist.

For all other organizations, we are willing to consider longer-term agreements in exchange for discounts. To set up annual plans or longer, you will need to book a demo with a customer support specialist.

How do I cancel my plan if needed?

If you're on a month to month plan, you can go here and cancel anytime. If you're having concerns or need help setting up your account for success, you can always book a demo with a customer support specialist.

If you're on a longer-term custom plan, you'll need to reach out to your customer support specialist to cancel your account or email us at support@joinassembly.com.

What customizations are available?

Great question! You can customize your core values to match your organization's to boost and track alignment. You can change your currency from the 🏆 emoji (our default) to any emoji of your choice. You can swap our logo for your own. You can also set up company culture rewards such as, "Lunch with the CEO," "Buy a book on us," and so much more!

Who can give or receive recognition?

While we recommend a peer to peer set up where anyone in your organization can give or receive recognition, you can set up Assembly however you want. If you need to limit the people who can give or receive recognition, that's perfectly fine and can be done from your Admin, here.

What integrations are available?

Assembly connects to the tools your employees use every day to offer an easy, seamless experience with minimal change management.  

Assembly has integrations with HCM/HRIS systems like ADP, Google, Office 365, and Slack. We also integrate with communication tools like Slack and Teams so you and your employees can access Assembly wherever they work now.

What's your average adoption rate?

That depends on the company's permissions set up. That said, over 90% of the employees on Assembly's platform are recognized on a monthly basis. That means nearly every employee across all of our customers are receiving regular recognition from their peers, managers, or leadership. We're extremely proud of this.

Must rewards be set up to use Assembly?

They are not required. You can use Assembly without having rewards set up. However, we don't recommend it if you intend to have a high adoption and usage rate. You can always keep the costs down by offering internal culture rewards that are fulfilled by you internally.

Are points required to use Assembly?

No, you can remove allowances from anyone or everyone. It's up to you but we do recommend using points whether they're worth a real dollar value or not. Companies that use points have a much higher engagement rate even if those points don't exchange for real dollars.

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Please schedule time with an expert and we will help you to get all your questions answered