July 9, 2024
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24 Employee Incentive Ideas

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For employees to perform at the highest level, they need to feel like they’re working toward something. Employee incentives are one of the best ways to create that feeling for everyone, regardless of their position, skill-level, or personality.

The best employee incentives motivate underperformers to exceed expectations and push high performers to perform greater feats of productivity and performance—and these incentives reward both types of employee fairly and generously. 

If you want some helpful employee incentive ideas and examples, you’ve come to the right place. In this post, we’ll look at the benefits of employee incentive programs, examples of employee incentives, and employee incentive gift ideas, too.

The Benefits of Employee Incentives

Incentives lead to impactful business outcomes that no leader can ignore. Research shows that:

  • Incentives and rewards increase employee productivity by 22%
  • Incentives and rewards based on specific goals/performance increase revenue by 44%
  • Incentives that recognize and reward employee contributions have 89% higher employee engagement, 87% higher retention, and 85% greater loyalty.

When employers use incentives to drive productivity, reward efforts, and recognize contributions, employees respond with more effort, more engagement, and more loyalty. All of this leads to better revenue and improved business outcomes.

The 24 Best Employee Incentives and Incentive Rewards

Want to build incentives that really reach your people, increase motivation, and reward performers for their hard work? Take a look at the following four workplace incentive ideas, along with 20 incentive gift ideas, to start building your own incentive strategy!

1. Productivity Incentives

This is the most common type of incentive, where it’s used to drive employee performance. You can build performance-based incentives for any team, department, or project. Base the incentive and the rewards on the specific responsibilities of each team or department to ensure that everyone feels involved, and offer rewards that are meaningful for everyone.

2. Wellness Incentives

Help your employees maintain their health, both mental and physical, through wellness incentives. Create incentive programs that reward employees for exercising, eating healthy, meditating, etc. You can even set up a Lifestyle Spending Account that rewards employees with money to spend on specific wellness rewards.

3. Safety Incentives

For any organization that deals in dangerous work, safety incentives are a great way to drive safe behaviors. Reward employees who follow safety guidelines, complete safety training, or finish any safety-related paperwork, and watch as other employees follow suit!

Multiple Awardco clients have seen big boosts to their safety cultures, including All Access Staging and Southwest Gas.

4. Referral Incentives

Incentivize employees to influence the hiring process. Offer rewards for things like leaving a review of the company online, sharing job listings, and inviting personal contacts to apply. Gifts should scale depending on how influential the employee’s actions are. (A review is smaller, an actual interview or hire is bigger.)

5. Meaningful Gifts

This kind of gift will show your employee that you pay attention to who they truly are and their likes and dislikes. Don’t you feel special receiving your favorite flowers or a gift certificate to your favorite restaurant? In addition to the gift itself, it means someone’s been paying attention. 

The meaningful gift shows your employee that you thought of them and noticed them. 

6. Personalized Gift Cards

Offer your employees gift cards tailored to their favorite places or a versatile cash card. It's a thoughtful way for them to enjoy a treat on their own terms.

7. Wellness Gifts

Work can sometimes be stressful. Offering wellness gifts like subscriptions to fitness apps or yoga classes can provide a much-needed boost to their well-being.

8. Experience Gifts

People can’t re-gift or give away an experience. Encourage your employees to relax by sending them on retreats, to a spa, or to experience a new culture or part of the world. You could also consider paying for an online course, covering a portion of their education costs, getting them tickets to see their favorite band, or sponsoring a beloved hobby. 

9. Public Recognition

For those employees who enjoy the spotlight, give them a public shoutout for their work and efforts. Incentivizing them with public recognition is a great way to reaffirm that they matter, they’re valued, and they're important to the company as a whole.

10. Funny Gifts

The funny gift can be a little tricky. After all, you don’t want to step on any toes or create any tension, and not everyone will appreciate the funny gift. However, it can be fun to honor or appreciate an aspect of your employee’s job they might not love, but they perform with a good attitude. Again, knowing your employees well will make giving the funny gift easier because you’ll understand what will work or what won’t. 

11. Professional Development Opportunities

Reward employees who put great effort into their work with more opportunities to learn, grow, and develop their career. Incentive rewards could include a mentor opportunity, online courses, workshop attendance, or anything that the specific employee is interested in.

12. Time Off as a Gift

Consider gifting additional vacation time as a unique employee incentive. Announce it during a team meeting to ensure everyone respects the recipient's time to unwind.

13. Work Perks

Make work more enjoyable with perks like extended lunch breaks, afternoons off, or office equipment upgrades such as noise-canceling headphones.

14. The Edible Gift

Who doesn’t love food? Be aware of dietary restrictions and allergies when planning for this gift, but also know that you’re probably heading in a good direction by giving the edible gift. These can range in cost, from a gift card to their favorite place to grab a drink to the high-end steakhouse in the next city over. 

15. Music Subscriptions

With a subscription to a preferred music service, your employees can enjoy their favorite tunes anytime, enhancing their work experience.

16. Lunches

Ease the burden of daily meal prep by surprising your employees with a catered lunches or lunch delivery from their favorite local restaurant or café. Alternatively, provide a gift card to a local eatery, allowing them to enjoy a takeout meal or a relaxing lunch outside the office.

17. The Holiday Gift

The holiday season is a great time to get gifts for your employees. You can give all kinds of traditional gifts during this festive time of year, from a warm fleece blanket to monogrammed mugs or water bottles. You aren’t limited to traditional ideas, though. Feel free to think outside the box on the holiday gift. 

18. The Company Swag Gift

Giving the gift of company swag creates a feeling of unity and support among your employees—support for one another and support for the company. Again, lots of traditional options to consider here, ranging from a lanyard to a company jacket. If you’re going the clothing route, be sure to get the right sizes.

19. Outdoor Activities and Work Gatherings

Not all employee incentives need to be tangible. Reward your team with a safe outdoor gathering, like a picnic or a hike, to foster team bonding.

20. Surprise Treats

A surprise delivery of cookies or cupcakes can add a touch of sweetness to your employee's day and show your appreciation.

21. Online Learning Opportunities

Offer access to online courses that can either enhance their professional skills or cater to their personal hobbies and interests.

22. Notes of Appreciation

Never underestimate the power of a heartfelt note or postcard. This simple gesture can convey your appreciation in a deeply meaningful way.

23. Office Decor

Help your employees personalize their workspace with a plant, artwork, or other decor items. It's one of the best ways to make their office feel more inviting and comfortable.

24. The Chance to Choose Their Own Reward

Guessing what employees will like for their incentive reward is great, but why not let them choose their own reward? Awardco offers millions of reward options, and the platform allows employees to choose whatever sounds best to them. That way, you still show appreciation, but you won’t ever buy any employee incentive gift that misses the mark.

What Are Employee Incentives and Incentive Programs?

The best employee incentives are rewards or benefits used to motivate positive behaviors in the workforce or a given individual. Employee incentive programs are designed to attract, engage, and retain talent.

Why Are Employee Incentive Ideas Important?

First of all, employee incentives can genuinely help satisfy elements from Maslow’s pyramid of human needs, such as esteem and self-actualization. Not only that, but employee incentive gifts and programs can emphasize the kind of work you want to see from other employees, focusing on the goals and standards that matter most to your company. 

You can effectively communicate and engender greater buy-in of your company values and simultaneously help your employees feel more valued and fulfilled with excellent employee incentive ideas.

Get a Demo Today With Awardco

Awardco offers many different ideas for employee incentive gifts and programs. Contact us today to learn more and schedule a demo!

Jefferson Hansen
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An avid lover of fantasy books, a proud Hufflepuff, and a strong proponent of escapism, Jeff has a love of good storytelling. He relies on that for both his professional work and his writing hobby (don’t ask about the 10+ novel ideas collecting virtual dust on his computer).