An incentive is nothing more than a factor that encourages a specific course of action. Any economist will tell you that incentives play a major role in world markets and economy, and any manager worth his salt will tell you that you can start using incentives as an effective management and leadership tool. You can use them to shape human behavior.
Because of the economic connotation, you might think that this is a strategy that will break the bank. Sure, money can be involved if you want—raises and bonuses are classic incentives. But there are still plenty of ways to incentivize your workers with no or little money involved. We took some suggestions from SmallBizTrends.com and came up with a few of our own as well.
1. Get flexible on scheduling. If someone meets a certain quota or achieves a specific goal, grant him a more flexible schedule. This doesn't need to mean working less hours—it can simply mean working outside of the conventional hours in a way that is more convenient for him, or even working from home.
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2. Introduce special holidays. Offer an interesting break from the regular workday if your employees can meet some sort of goal. Casual Friday is cliched and "Favorite Tie Day" is boring. How about "Bring Your Pet to Work Day," "Casino Night," "Chili Cookoff Day," or something entirely new?
3. Throw parties. When your team meets a goal, make the last chunk of the day about hanging out and socializing. If you're especially frugal, this can still be done for free. Make it into a potluck where everybody brings one food item. If you're willing to spend a small amount of money, pizza is pretty failsafe.
4. Stay lighthearted and accessible. A relaxed workplace inspires collaboration, and that means that productivity will increase organically (and maybe even without anyone else noticing).
5. Be receptive. After you've established yourself as someone who uses incentives, watch as your employees come to you to propose their own ideas. If it's a reasonable proposition, take them up on it.
6. Offer corporate memberships. See what local businesses in the area might be willing to partner with you and give your employees a discount on goods and services. Consider everything from lawn care to sandwich shops. You don't need to chase huge discounts, either—even a scant 10 percent or 15 perecent savings at the register can brighten your employees' day.
Incentives have already been a part of your life whether you realize it or not. Teachers tell students that if they're well-behaved, they can leave class early. Parents give children toys to reward good behavior. When you go out of your way to reward excellence in the workplace, that is incentive in and of itself. Employees will work hard to grab some of that recognition and attention for a job well done.
A company that can be productive while having a soundly casual or enjoyable office culture is surely one that's got a lot figured out. Incentives are a great way to figure out what kinds of positive change you can introduce to your workplace.
Image credit: jcalnan