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How to Improve Job Performance Using Incentives

Posted by Jeff Welch on 6/6/16 8:00 AM
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As a training professional, it’s very possible you’ll be approached by a manager or supervisor within your organization to discuss employee job performance. This discussion will likely happen when that manager is looking for ways in which to improve the job performance of a poorly performing direct report or team member. Don’t be surprised if that manager views training as the first and only option to fix the many possible issues related to unsatisfactory job performance. 

 

When I worked for a large media operation I found myself having these types of discussions all the time. With each one, I learned to remain cautious about jumping to the conclusion that training was the quick-fix solution to every employee performance problem.

 

During those discussions, I often found myself transitioning from my role of a traditional trainer to that of a performance consultant. I took that time to educate my management peers on the multiple factors that impact employee job performance.

 

In addition to training, I’d often challenge the managers to seriously consider other options for improving job performance. One factor was employee incentive. In many cases, incentive (both monetary and non-monetary) can serve as motivation for an employee to perform at a higher level. By contrast, a lack of incentive can often contribute to mediocre employee job performance.

 

I’d often ask, “Have you fully investigated and applied various incentive initiatives to motivate your employees to a higher level of performance?” Sadly, when that question was asked, it was met with responses that ranged from “They get an annual pay increase.” to “I just don’t have it in the budget to award extra financial bonuses.”

 

Fortunately, our organization and department was financially stable. During those strong economic times, every employee got a 3% annual salary increase. This included both the top performers in the department, as well as the poor performers. While nice, that raise didn’t actually motivate the top performers to work harder. They knew they’d “cap out” at 3%. Nor did the raise motivate the poor performers. They knew they’d receive a raise regardless of whether they performed above or below standard.

 

I’d often remind management that financial incentive can be a successful factor in motivating an employee as long as it’s tailored and structured in such a way to improve job performance. I’d also remind management that not all incentives need to be monetary-based.

 

I became creative in recommending non-monetary incentives that fell into one of three categories: recognition, empowerment, and enjoyment. Below is a partial list of my suggestions:

 

Recognition
Most people like to be recognized for a job well done. Whether recognized publicly or privately, the simple act of acknowledging someone’s hard work goes a long way. For example:


• A handwritten thank you note
• A formal letter of appreciation for the employee’s personnel file
• Adding the employee’s name and/or photo to a departmental or company “Wall of Fame”
• Public recognition of the employee’s achievements at a staff meeting

 

Empowerment
Empowered and engaged employees have the potential to reach higher levels of performance because they feel in control of their jobs and responsibilities. Examples of how to empower your staff include:


• Give the employee more autonomy with a task
• Permit the employee to work closely with managers and management
• Authorize the employee to be involved with key departmental decisions
• Allow the employee to be flexible with his/her working hours



Enjoyment
If employees aren’t having fun and enjoying themselves in the workplace, they’re probably not performing at their highest level. Self-improvement coach, Dale Carnegie once said, “People rarely succeed unless they have fun in what they are doing.” The following examples will motivate employees while increasing the fun factor:


• Celebrate employee milestones and birthdays
• Have a “Decorate Your Area” contest
• Put refreshments in the work area
• Create a “Relaxation Room” where employees can go for a prescribed amount of time to take a quick nap, read a book, or quietly use their mobile devices

 

Studies show non-monetary rewards often increase an employee’s intrinsic motivation and help employees feel like a valued, appreciated part of the team.

 

So the next time a manager wants to use training as a way to improve employee job performance, investigate the issue. Try to get a better understanding of whether the issue is training-related or not. If the unsatisfactory job performance is due to lack of motivation, sometimes all it takes is a few creative incentives to encourage employees to perform to their highest levels.

 

Enroll in Langevin's Consulting Skills for Trainers workshop to enhance your currents skills in performance improvment, soon! 

 

 

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Greetings from Chicago! My name is Jeff Welch and I’ve been a Course Leader with Langevin Learning Services since December, 2000. However I’ve been involved with Langevin since the mid 90’s. I attended Langevin courses as a participant before becoming an instructor.

Topics: needs analysis, job performance

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