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How to Create an Employee Incentive Program with No Budget

An “incentive” is defined as “something that incites or tends to incite to action or greater effort, as a reward offered for increased productivity.”

When used as an adjective—say in the phrase “incentive program”—it is defined as “inciting, as to action; stimulating; provocative.”

Aren’t those such wonderfully descriptive words? They make me want to get down to business and make things happen! And, we’re sure your employees will too, when you build an incentive program to achieve your goals.


What It Is

An incentive program is meant to spur on your employees and motivate them to meet their goals. Yet, instead of being a reward after the fact, the details are spelled out up front. Incentive programs make sure your employees know what they’re working toward. They encourage employees to see the prize and work toward it over a predetermined period of time.


Why Do It?

Incentive programs are versatile and can be used in many ways. Maybe your employee motivation has taken a downward turn and you need to engage your employees in their work and in the company’s mission—i.e. why they do what they do. Or maybe your sales aren’t where they should be, and what you have been doing to motivate your employees is no longer getting the results you need.



A key benefit of an incentive program is that you don’t need a budget! (Yes, you heard that right.)

Think about it: If your goal is tied to sales (and even if it isn’t), a byproduct of increased engagement and hard work is money. The profits that come in from your employees’ increased effort IS your budget for the rewards. In other words, hitting your goals creates the budget. With this fact in mind, employees are sure to be extra motivated to hit their sales goals so they can earn extra rewards.


Setting Up for Success

So, how do you set up an incentive program, you may ask? Here’s how we suggest going about it:

  1. Gain leadership buy-in. For change to occur, you need managers to lead by example. If your leadership team isn’t on board, you can pretty much guarantee your employees won’t be either.
  2. Determine your goal. As we mentioned above, to set up an incentive program, you need a goal determined before you start. Do you want to increase sales? Or do you want to create some buzz around your company values? Where do you see your employees unengaged? Target those areas with incentives!
  3. Determine rewards. Rewards can be anything! Just make sure they’re desirable and big enough to activate change. With an incentive program, rewards should be especially motivating. One suggestion we have is to develop tiers of rewards: maybe three reward options for hitting 90–99% of the sales goal, five reward options for hitting 100–104% of the sales goal, etc. A best practice is to increase the amount of rewards offered, plus the value of those rewards, with each tier. The rewards could be experiential—travel rewards like hotel stays and destination trips—or monetary—bonuses or gift cards—or time off. You know your employees the best, so choose what you know will work for them! Or, if you need a little help, you could circulate a survey asking a few key questions that will guide you in your decision.
  4. Keep employees updated on their progress regularly. One of the worst things you can do with an incentive program is to neglect sharing progress with your employees. Updates are perfect motivation to go the extra mile in their work. It lets them know that no effort is too small and every activity counts! A great way to give updates is through all staff emails. And another way is to give them access to a sales dashboard. Maybe for a limited time, you have a hyperlink on your intranet so they can check their progress whenever they’d like. 


Need help? No problem!

An incentive program may sound overwhelming, but it’s not. We’d love to come alongside you to answer any questions you have and then help you set up your own program! We have the products, services, and industry experts to help you determine your goals, and then prioritize and accomplish them. Click here to request a demo, or give us a call at 888.919.7600. You’ll be glad you did!