Offering employees incentives for heightened performance or for reaching a sales goal are common talent management strategies employers take to motivate their workforce or improve employee engagement.
However, while most of the focus in compensation revolves around the standard fare of incentives, meeting quarterly goals, or selling a product the firm wanted to push, organizations can benefit from utilizing a less hyped bonus program: training incentives.
Considering consumers can now access the limitless product and brand research tool that is the Internet with a swipe of their finger, firms are increasingly finding that it’s not so much about how much an employee sells, but how much he knows.
Yet as more companies engage in training incentive initiatives, many are finding difficulty in running such programs. It all boils down to knowing what motivates employees, what incentives will produce results, and how closely businesses can align those incentives with corporate goals.
Where to Start
The first thing to know about training incentives is that they aren’t commonly used to incentivize basic training regimens employees must undergo to grasp the rudimentary skill and requirements of the job. Instead, such incentives are primarily used to spur employees into seeking advanced training that expands their skill repertoire, educates them more thoroughly on product and company details, or prepares them for another job within the company.
For example, SHRM recently profiled the training incentive program run at Maryland-based Hudson Trail Outfitters—which employs some 300 people across five locations—and how it uses training incentives to motivate and educate. The Hudson Trail programs consist of training employees on how to size backpacks, skis, shoes, and bikes. The company typically hosts 30 product training clinics a year, with invitations going out only to high-performing employees.
What Motivates Employees
When running incentive programs, the natural inclination for employers is to offer cash as a performance or training bonus. But organizations should know money usually isn’t the be-all and end-all for employees. In fact, the training programs researched by SHRM rarely relied on cash payouts.
For instance, compensation efforts at Hudson Trail range from rewarding employees with pins they can display to co-workers to VIP nights, where selected employees are invited to a high-scale event sponsored by vendors complete with food, prizes, and presentations. Doling out cash bonuses is inefficient, costly, and in many cases, not what employees value the most.
According to a recent infographic assembled by Salesforce, 50 percent fewer employees are motivated by money as compared to five years ago.
More than anything, employees have gained an appreciation for perks outside of monetary rewards. Whether they are presented with a plaque or a heightened employee discount on specific merchandise, there are myriad ways organizations can go about instituting training incentives without having to constrict resources by paying out cash each time.
“Our people respond better to gear incentives than they do to cash,” Sandy Cohan, Hudson Trail general manager, told SHRM. “We’ve tried everything when it comes to training incentives, and we found that our people work twice as hard and get twice as jazzed when they earn a free jacket as opposed to a bonus check.”
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