3 steps to ... motivate employees

Some invaluable tips for getting the most out of employees.

Pay it: Let’s face it, the thing that motivates most employees is cash, and plenty of it. Trinkets are unsatisfying, and no one needs another company-branded golf shirt. But salaries are stagnating (unless you’re a politician), and bonuses are drying up (unless you’re an exec running Nortel into the ground). The solution?

Small chunks of cash doled out at regular intervals onto a credit card for meeting company objectives. That, says David Eason, president of Berkely Payment Solutions in Toronto, lets employees decide how they want to spend the money, and keeps their mind on what the company needs.

Repeat it: Handing out rewards at year-end does little to encourage the results you want during the entire year. Eason recommends rewards be given at least quarterly and ideally monthly or even more often. It’s also important to touch on as many objectives as possible, such as customer service, sales and quality objectives as well as health and safety awards. “Make sure you’re not just rewarding one thing,” says Eason. “It’s quite possible for a company to have four or five different incentive programs in place for people to really hit those objectives that are important.”

Brand it: The whole point of having an incentive campaign is to provide something with personal meaning for your employees, but that doesn’t mean you can’t brand it. A company-branded credit card reinforces your objective every time it’s used. Employees at one software distributor Berkely worked with used their cards to buy lunches at Wendy’s and Arby’s, rather than saving for a larger purchase. “If they’re pulling out the reward card many times a week, it creates almost a Pavlovian response: ‘Hey, if I want free lunch tomorrow, all I have to do is exhibit this behaviour again.’” Sometimes people need a little help to do what’s right.