This website uses cookies to improve your user experience.

Manage your cookies

We use cookies, some of them are essential, others are optional. Learn more.

Strictly necessary

These cookies are necessary for the website and can’t be deactivated.

Marketing & Analytics

These cookies can be set by our advertising partners through our website.


To individualize your content, we use tools that personalize your web experience.


Employee engagement · 

6 minutes

Cormac O'SullivanPiggy

Employee Incentive Programs: Boosting Performance & Wellness

Welcome to the dynamic world of incentive programs. Today, employers realize that having a solid team isn't enough. Increasing employee satisfaction and motivating them to strive for excellence are vital for the success of any business. A well-structured incentive program plays a crucial role in achieving these goals.

What is an Employee Incentive Program?

An employee incentive program is a strategic plan aimed at encouraging employees to increase productivity, improve work environment, and achieve company-wide goals. It is designed to make employees feel valued, hence boosting employee retention and company culture. Check out the video below for a full rundown on employee incentive programs.

How to Create an Effective Incentive Program for Employees

Designing an effective employee incentive program is no small task. It requires a deep understanding of your employees, the company culture, and the business goals. The following detailed steps will guide you in developing a comprehensive incentive program tailored to your employees' needs.

Understand Your Employees

The first step in creating a successful incentive program is understanding what motivates your employees. Different people are motivated by different factors - while some might value monetary rewards, others may prefer recognition or additional learning opportunities. Surveys, interviews, and direct interactions can provide valuable insights into what your employees value most. Recognize the diversity of your workforce and consider a mix of incentives that can cater to various preferences.

Choose the Right Software

Don't make your life more difficult than it needs to be. By choosing the right software to support you in your setting-up of an employee incentive program, you take a lot of hassle out of the process. Piggy's software specializes in cutting time out of arduous tasks and can help you to automate and track everything from communication to rewards or feedback.

Define Clear and Achievable Goals

Clear, measurable, and achievable goals are at the heart of any incentive program. These goals should align with your company's objectives and be communicated effectively to all team members. They could range from sales targets and project completion timelines, to customer satisfaction scores and quality benchmarks. Make sure the goals are realistic and achievable, else the program may have the opposite effect and demotivate your team.

Select Appropriate Incentives

Once you understand what motivates your employees and have your goals in place, it's time to decide on the incentives. These can be monetary (profit sharing, bonuses, gift cards) or non-monetary (recognition, additional time off, training opportunities). Remember, the most effective incentives are those that are most valued by your employees.

Design a Fair and Transparent Program

The incentive program should be perceived as fair and transparent to all employees. Clearly define how and when the incentives will be awarded and ensure the program does not favor certain employees or departments. A perception of unfairness can demotivate employees and breed resentment.

Regularly Review and Update the Program

The business environment, as well as employee needs and motivations, can change over time. Regularly reviewing the incentive program allows you to make necessary adjustments and keep it relevant. Seek feedback from your employees on how the program can be improved. Their firsthand experiences can provide invaluable insights.

Effectively Communicate the Program

Your incentive program can only be effective if your employees know about it. Communicate clearly about the program's existence, the goals, the incentives on offer, and how to earn them. Regular updates and reminders about the program can keep it top of mind for your employees.

Make the Program Part of Your Company Culture

For maximum effectiveness, the incentive program should not be seen as a standalone initiative but integrated into the company culture. The values promoted by the program (excellence, teamwork, wellness, etc.) should align with the company's core values. This alignment helps create a cohesive culture where employees are consistently motivated to achieve their best.

Encourage Peer Recognition

Incentives don't always have to come from the top down. Peer recognition programs, where employees can nominate their colleagues for rewards, can promote teamwork and create a positive work environment. It also gives employees a greater sense of ownership over the incentive program.

Create Excitement Around the Program

Get creative and make your incentive program exciting. Launch it with an event, create buzz around the rewards, and celebrate when incentives are earned. An exciting program can boost participation and make the process of earning incentives enjoyable.

Remember, an effective incentive program is a tool that motivates employees to perform at their best. It encourages positive behaviors, aligns employees with company goals, and creates a supportive work environment. By following these steps, you can create an incentive program that is a win-win for both your employees and your organization.

What is a Wellness Incentive Program?

A wellness incentive program is a specific type of employee incentive program designed to encourage healthy behaviors. These programs can improve overall employee wellness, reduce healthcare costs, and increase productivity. They can offer incentives for various health-related activities such as regular exercise, healthy eating, or regular health check-ups.

Examples of Employee Incentive Programs

Here are five examples of successful employee incentive programs in real-world settings.

Google's Peer Recognition Program

Google's Peer Bonus program allows employees to reward their colleagues for good work. This encourages teamwork and peer recognition, making the work environment more positive and collaborative.

Microsoft's Profit Sharing Plan

Microsoft offers a profit sharing plan that distributes a portion of the company's profits to its employees. This aligns employees' interests with the company's performance and encourages them to contribute to the company's success.

SalesForce's Wellness Program

SalesForce has a comprehensive wellness program that offers various incentives to employees for participating in wellness activities. This encourages healthy behaviors and contributes to a healthier work environment.

Starbucks's Tuition Reimbursement

Starbucks offers a tuition reimbursement program for employees who want to pursue higher education. This provides an incentive for long-term career development within the company and can improve employee retention.

Zappos's Culture Bonus

Zappos offers a "Culture Bonus" to new hires, offering them a cash incentive to leave the company after their initial training if they feel they're not a good fit. This unusual incentive ensures that the company culture remains strong by keeping only those who are truly committed.

10 Tips and Ideas to Boost Your Employee Incentive Program

  • Personalize rewards: Customizing rewards to the individual's interests can make them more appealing.

  • Create a healthy competition: A friendly competition can motivate employees to give their best.

  • Recognize efforts as well as results: Rewarding effort encourages perseverance, even when results fall short.

  • Involve employees in the planning: When employees help create the program, they're more likely to buy into it.

  • Offer flexible work arrangements: This can improve work-life balance and increase satisfaction.

  • Promote from within: Showing a clear path to advancement can motivate employees to strive for excellence.

  • Publicize achievements: Public recognition can be a powerful motivator.

  • Offer learning opportunities: Encouraging continuous learning can lead to better performance and job satisfaction.

  • Encourage volunteering: Rewarding community involvement can strengthen team spirit and company reputation.

  • Celebrate milestones: Recognizing work anniversaries or project completions can boost morale and make employees feel valued.

Incentives for Recruiting Employees

Incentives aren't only for current employees. They can also be effective tools for attracting top talent to your organization. Here are a few examples of such incentives:

Sign-on Bonuses

A sign-on bonus is a one-time incentive offered to new hires. This initial monetary incentive can be a powerful recruitment tool, attracting high-quality candidates who might be considering multiple job offers.

Relocation Assistance

Offering to cover moving costs or providing temporary housing can make your company more appealing to out-of-town candidates. This incentive can help attract talent from a broader geographic pool.

Student Loan Repayment Assistance

For many potential hires, especially younger ones, student loan debt is a significant concern. Companies that offer student loan repayment assistance can stand out from the competition and attract high-quality candidates.

Flexible Work Schedules

Work-life balance is increasingly important to job seekers. Offering flexible work schedules, remote work options, or compressed work weeks can be a strong incentive for potential employees.

Comprehensive Benefits Package

Aside from the usual health and retirement benefits, consider offering perks like gym memberships, wellness programs, or mental health support. A comprehensive benefits package can greatly enhance your company's appeal to potential hires.

The Difference Between Hiring Incentives and Incentive Programs

While they may seem similar, hiring incentives and incentive programs serve different purposes and are implemented at different stages of employment. Hiring incentives are primarily used to attract and recruit new talent to the organization. They're often one-time perks given to new hires.

In contrast, incentive programs are ongoing initiatives designed to motivate and retain current employees. They're structured to reward employees for meeting certain performance targets or achieving company-wide goals.


Effective employee incentive programs are crucial for motivating employees, fostering a positive work environment, and achieving business goals. Whether you're rewarding top performers, promoting wellness, or attracting new talent, incentive programs can have a significant impact on your organization's success. Remember, an effective incentive program is flexible, clear, and resonates with your employees. So, invest time in understanding what motivates your team and create an incentive program that truly makes them feel valued.

Remember, a stellar incentive program doesn't just create happy employees; it contributes to a successful and dynamic company.

Related articles