Incentive, Reward & Recognition Program Design for Crisis Recovery



The Incentive Research Foundation (The IRF) recently talked with many industry professionals to learn what changes program designers are making to employee programs during crisis recovery. In any economy, effective incentive, reward and recognition programs ensure that employees are motivated to achieve goals and that they’re rewarded for that achievement.

Effective Incentive Program Design

There are proven steps to take in designing incentive, reward and recognition programs, and those don’t change with the economic climate:

  1. Set 2-3 measurable objectives (aligned with company goals)
  2. Analyze the Audience (identify which employees can impact the goals)
  3. Fact Finding/Audience Involvement (tools or training necessary)
  4. Rules Structure & Budget (program structure, fixed & variable costs)
  5. Select Rewards (with program audience input – but no gift cards)
  6. Communicate the Program (launch, throughout and at the end)
  7. Operate & Track Results (run the program, evaluate throughout)
  8. Fulfill the Rewards (the sooner, the better)
  9. Evaluate & Measure (were goals accomplished? Determine ROI)
  10. Celebrate Success! (reward achievers, communicate results)

Although the steps to designing the programs don’t change, the IRF reports that adjustments are being made to programs in preparing for a recovery from the current crisis. Some current priorities include:

  • Company leaders are increasingly focused on encouraging and maximizing teamwork, made especially more challenging as more employees are working remotely.
  • Simplicity is valued. The more we’re bombarded with email and other messaging, the more people appreciate simple, easy-to-read communications.
  • Employee stress and engagement are considerations. Safety programs now include stress management components. Incentive, reward & recognition programs are key elements to increasing employee engagement and all the benefits that a highly engaged workforce provides.
  • Program goals, rewards and processes must be continually evaluated to make sure they are relevant to the current climate. This has never been more evident than during the COVID-19 crisis.
  • Sales incentive programs may now include learning new skills for effective remote meetings and other ways to maximize customer relationships when face-to-face meetings are not possible.

At their core, incentive programs are a tool for learning and for reinforcing and rewarding the behaviors that are valuable to the employee and the company. The program rules and individual goals show employees how they can become more successful.

In general, corporate incentive marketplace professionals suggest that flexibility and adaptability are key in preparing for crisis recovery. To discuss the changing priorities affecting your workforce as you prepare for recovery, contact one of our Incentive Professionals today.



In economic terms, the multiplier effect refers to the proportional increase or decrease in final income that results from an injection or withdrawal of capital. In terms of Safety Reward Programs, the multiplier effect might refer to the ROI² (Return on Incentive Investment). A properly structured program significantly impacts overall employee engagement and safety culture, where employees are attuned to safety-related issues, inspired to display “Above & Beyond” safe behaviors, willing to be safety ambassadors, and encouraged to promote learning and support continuous improvement. Such best-in-class programs are designed to promote group objectives and reward individual behavior, engaging, motivating, and rewarding the people behind your success.

Fortunately, there are thousands of companies in high-risk industries that have excellent safety programming, training, and coaching in place. Many include safety in their list of core values and have invested heavily in EHS (Environment, Health, and Safety) technology, training, telematics, and personnel. However, too many miss the opportunity to incentivize and recognize individual safety contributions, behaviors, and performance.

Programs featuring tangible and experiential awards as the reward currency can have a multiplying effect that pays dividends. Benefits include a more highly engaged workforce, fewer accidents and incidents, reduced claims and losses, lower turnover and absenteeism, better communication, increased productivity, visibility to leading and lagging indicators, incremental coaching and training opportunities, and improved profitability.

So, what’s the rub? Are engagement programs focused on employee safety, health, and wellness expensive to implement? Do they only make sense for companies with thousands of safety-sensitive workers? The answer to both questions is no. Properly structured programs can be cost-effective and right-sized for companies with as few as 100 safety-sensitive workers up to those with 10,000 or more. The ROI² of these programs can be expressed as a ratio (in this case, 4:1), with quantitative results showing a savings of $4.00 for every $1.00 invested and qualitative results revealing higher employee morale, which serves as a catalyst for productivity. Safety Reward Programs help to mitigate risk, elevate employee engagement, and improve overall safety culture. They also present an excellent opportunity for companies to simply say thank you to their employees for being safe, committed, and engaged.

People have an inherent need to know that their efforts do not go unnoticed. Safety Reward Programs provide the stimulus and energy that encourage employees to perform at their best and achieve new heights.



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