What’s the difference between being a good friend and a good employer? According the happiest companies in America last year, not much.
Happy companies all have one thing in common: They give without expecting reciprocity.
Google, for example, is famous for going the extra mile to treat its employees like friends. In addition to health and dental benefits, vacations, and a stimulating workplace, Google offers unique perks like “takeout benefits” for new mothers and fathers, which stipulate a $500 allowance for takeout meals in the first three months they’re home with their new baby.
Well, OK, they might expect a little loyalty and hard work somewhere down the line, but their gifts aren’t about provoking competition among employees; they’re about generating real happiness.
How to Strike the Perfect Balance Between Gifts and Incentives
Striking a perfect balance between incentivizing and giving is crucial to your employees’ overall satisfaction. Some leaders tend to merge the two, but it’s important to understand the difference.
A Business Incentive
A business incentive is a reward used to motivate employees to reach professional goals. Achievements can be recognized with prizes like gift certificates or bonuses. This system creates an environment of healthy competition, which stimulates productivity and shows your company values results.
A Business Gift
On the other hand, a business gift is an item offered spontaneously without obligation to a valued employee as a token of appreciation. A business gift isn’t attached to a specific performance target, but it still motivates the recipient and encourages an appreciative, dynamic business relationship that boosts performance.
Incentives and gifts each serve a purpose. Incentives work well to keep employees continually motivated and reward them for putting in extra work. Gifts are perfect when you just want to say thank you, congratulate an employee on a major life event, or show him that he’s valued with a fun, heartfelt surprise.
5 Tips to a Winning Company Culture
Here are five tips for harmonizing incentives and gifts to nurture a winning company culture:
1. Think money.
It’s not particularly flashy or personal, but most employees will value cash above every other type of incentive. Awarding surprise bonuses or extra weekend funds can really boost morale. Offer these extra motivations in addition to the long-term incentive programs employees rely on, such as holiday bonuses or points that employees can trade for fun prizes.
2. Balance support and surprise.
Combining surprise gifts with long-term support will help your employees view their work in a positive light. Mixing security with fun is a recipe that most successful companies share. They increase the happiness of their team through a strong support structure while creating delight and joy through special surprises peppered throughout the year.
3. Set up an internal currency.
Trackable point systems are a great incentive that allow employees to take pride in their job, make them feel like they belong, and help them wake up excited to go to work. Setting up an internal system also makes gifts more exciting when they’re given spontaneously.
For example, AMR Corporation leads an incentive program using an internal credit system to recognize its 100,000 employees. The company converts these credits into dollars, and employees receive a quarterly statement outlining their credit balance and redemption options, which include travel awards and gifts from retailers like Banana Republic and Gap.
4. Make it personal.
If you know your employees well, offer incentives that will personally inspire them and gifts that will make them happy. It’s the thought that counts, and the very best gifts suit the recipient perfectly. Take the time to pinpoint what motivates your team.
Ernst & Young, for example, offers stock options to its employees. This works because employees are interested in stocks, but for a different company, they might hold no sway at all. Understanding your team is key.
5. Spread the love.
Employees aren’t the only associates that respond positively to gifts and incentives. You can use your giving strategy for any business relationship — prospective and current clients, suppliers, advisors, and even employees’ families. Giving a business gift indicates that you care about a relationship and are genuinely interested in solidifying it.
Creating Top Performers
Gifts and incentives are both superb ways to delight your employees, show appreciation, and encourage top performance. When properly balanced, they can reinforce good behavior, instill loyalty, and make your employees feel great. And when your employees are happy, they’re more likely to stick around!
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