The right employee incentives can boost productivity, employee engagement, and retention across the board—which is arguably more important than ever. According to LinkedIn’s 2023 Workplace Learning Report, employee retention remains a key pain point for a staggering 93% of companies.
But how do you incentivize employees without slashing profits when you’re already struggling just to stay in the red? The fact is, you don’t need monetary incentives like bonuses or tuition reimbursement if you can’t afford them right now. Some of the best employee incentive programs don’t cost any money at all—and others will net you more than they cost you.
1. Flex Time
Flex time, or flexible work hours, can take on different forms depending on the needs and limitations of your business. It can be as simple as allowing employees to adjust their scheduled hours, or it can include the option to work from home on specific days.
One study found that 88% of employees look for workplace flexibility when considering a new job. So if you’re able to work any kind of flexibility into your existing organization, it’s worth considering. You’re still getting the same number of hours from the employee, but they’re able to enjoy greater freedom and autonomy. This type of perk can be hugely motivating.
2. Paid Time Off
Okay, so technically paid time off (PTO) is a financial investment. However, it doesn’t have to adversely impact profits. Quite the opposite, in fact. Research has shown that:
- 78% of bosses believe that PTO improves an employee’s focus.
- 81% of bosses believe that PTO helps to alleviate burnout.
- Employees who work at companies that encourage PTO have 68% higher job satisfaction than employees who work for companies that don’t encourage PTO.
Most importantly, when employees have ample time off, they simply perform better in the workplace. Productivity has been shown to improve by 31%, sales can improve by 37%, and creativity and revenue can as much as triple. The investment in paid time off pays dividends for your organization.
When devising a PTO strategy, it’s important to work with your financial officer to strategize a plan that meets the needs of employees while still ensuring a positive ROI. If you don’t have a CFO or similar professional on staff, you can hire a fractional CFO through a company like Focused Energy.
3. Professional Development
A growing number of employees are eager for learning and development opportunities. According to research from TalentLMS, 76% of employees are more likely to stick with a company that offers continuous training.
There are different ways to train up your employees. Upskilling allows you to sharpen your employees’ existing skills, giving them greater confidence to do their jobs to perfection. Re-skilling allows you to impart new skills, potentially leading to growth opportunities down the line and helping you to build a more agile workforce.
When your team is continuously trained in different aspects of the organization, you’re better able to weather sudden departures, absences, and other unpredictable personnel issues. You also experience better productivity.
Continuous professional development doesn’t have to come at a huge cost. You can put much of the training on autopilot with the help of a digital learning management system. Any upfront costs will be more than offset by the employee performance improvements that result from the training.
4. Growth Opportunities
This goes hand in hand with the previous point. Employees don’t want to feel like they’re spinning their wheels. They want to feel like their hard work is building toward something greater.
Even if upward mobility is already a factor in your organization, your employees might not realize it. Or they might not feel that it connects to them personally. In order for growth to be an incentivizing factor, you have to make it real for them.
One way to transform career growth from an abstract idea into a personal motivator is to establish a career development plan for ambitious and high-performing employees. The plan may include a series of benchmarks that the team member must complete in order to achieve their next promotion and/or raise.
Now the idea of career growth isn’t just a theory. There’s a real plan of action behind it. You can also offer things like mentorship programs to help guide employees through their career development objectives and keep them focused on the end goal.
5. Social Activities
Team building is an important aspect of bringing employees together, helping them to feel valued, and helping the workplace to feel more like home. Consider hosting occasional events like company lunches, social gatherings, holiday parties, or general team-building events to foster connections between team members and provide a renewed sense of passion for the organization.
Social activities don’t have to be expensive. Something as simple as an office holiday party with an ugly sweater contest and a Secret Santa activity can go a long way, and it costs very little. Again, these types of activities can break up the stress and monotony and help to restore employees’ focus and drive, thereby improving your bottom line.
6. Health and Wellness Incentives
A corporate wellness program is another example of an initiative that initially costs you money but ultimately saves you more in the long run. Harvard researchers found that companies save $3.27 in medical costs for every dollar invested in corporate wellness. Their absenteeism costs also fall by $2.73 for every dollar invested in wellness.
A wellness program can include things like gym memberships (or rebates), in-office yoga, incentives for smoking cessation, mental health support, and other perks. This can boost employee morale, reduce stress among team members, and promote a workforce that’s better equipped to do the job.
Find Employee Incentive Program Ideas That Motivate Your Team
Different incentive ideas will appeal to different teams. In order to devise your own incentive strategy to reward employees, you have to know your employees, your company culture, and the abilities and limitations of your business. You don’t need to formally adopt a comprehensive employee incentive program. Even something as simple as employee recognition can be highly motivating. The important thing is that your employees are valued—and that they recognize that they’re valued.
It may take some effort, but when you invest in your team, it does make a positive difference for your bottom line. So schedule that holiday party, outline those career development goals, and watch your team flourish.