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Employee Incentives: How To Get People To Do What You Want

Updated on June 1, 2011

When People Do Not Perform

You're a manager in an organization and you have a "problem" employee. This employee comes to work each day indifferent and is careless with his/her work. He/she performs below expectations and there have been complaints from customers or other employees about, or as a result of, this person's work.

What do you do?

Clearly the expectations of each other are misaligned. The trick is to somehow bring the difficult employee in line and make them do what you want. If you've read Dale Carnegie's How To Win Friends & Influence People, you will know that the only way to make people do what you tell them is to make them WANT to do what you tell them. I'll say that again:

The Only Way To Make People Do Something
...Is To Make Them Want To Do It!

This is where employee incentives work a charm...

A happy employee is a productive employee
A happy employee is a productive employee

It's Not Always About Money

Employee Incentives do not necessarily always refer to monetary incentives. They can do though. Some companies have Employee Incentive Programs like bonuses which are paid out based on the performance of individuals and divisions within the company.

An incentive is anything that will motivate the employee to do a better job. Each employee is different. There are things you can put in place to motive a group (such as performance based bonuses) but sometimes you need to give individual employees a unique incentive, particularly if they need to 'step up'. 90% of the time, it is not additional money that is the answer.

Read & Succeed

How to Win Friends & Influence People
How to Win Friends & Influence People

***** ESSENTIAL READING by Dale Carnegie


Employee Incentives That Work

If an employee is underperforming, give them a title or a responsibility. There is the story of an employee who was careless with price tags in the shopping center, much to the chagrin of customers. When her manager appointed her "Supervisor of Price Tag Posting" her whole attitude changed and she completed her tasks satisfactorily.

If you are replacing someone else's role...and the task has fallen upon your shoulders to give them the bad news yourself, depending on the scenario, you could convey it in a way to make them feel too important for the role (eg "your presence will attract a great deal of attention"). Another way would be to sincerely throw in a compliment and boost their self worth to soften the blow. (eg "the boss said that the reason for the replacement was that your management skills were required to improve this other area in the company").

When you have a conversation with your direct reports make it seem as though they are the most important person in the room. Don't fiddle with your Blackberry, look out the window or continue typing. Listen!

As a project engineer that has worked on construction sites, I have to find ways for employees to comply with safety requirements. It's not always easy to change that kind of culture in the workforce. It takes time. We've had $100 vouchers to give away as safety incentives for completing safety hazard observations. One hazard observation = 1 entry of their name into the Hard Hat from which the winner is drawn each month!

I believe that people come to work looking to do a good job. In most cases, all they are after is a recognition that their efforts are contributing to the success of the organization. They just want to know that they are not another drone or number and that they are making a difference. That's all.

How to Win Friends and Influence People
How to Win Friends and Influence People

Everyone must read this book. It will change your life.


Dale Carnegie's Guidelines

These are 6 points taken from Dale Carnegie's teachings that an effective leader should keep in mind when it is necessary to change attitudes or behavior:

  1. Be sincere. Do not promise anything that you cannot deliver.
  2. Know exactly what it is you want the other person to do.
  3. Be empathetic. Ask yourself what is it the other person really wants.
  4. Consider the benefits that person will receive from doing what you suggest.
  5. Match those benefits to the other person's wants.
  6. When you make your request, put it in a form that will convey to the other person the idea that he or she will benefit.

In other words, make the other person happy about doing what you suggest.

The Impact of Successful Employee Incentives To Your Business

  • Creates win-win situations for the employees and the employer
  • Boosts morale & employee motivation
  • Boosts productivity & employee performance
  • Improves employee retention
  • Reduction in absenteeism
  • Indirect positive affect on your customers/client

I'm not so naive to suggest that these approaches work all the time, but in many cases they will produce an outcome that is closer to what is desired. Good luck.


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    • marcofratelli profile imageAUTHOR


      8 years ago from Australia

      That's true. If you understand human nature and that people need to be managed individually due to different needs and personalities, then you'll understand what incentives will work for them. Thanks for commenting.

    • profile image

      Loren Weaver 

      8 years ago from Atlanta, Georgia

      As with any study of human behavior - what motivates depends on the individual and their immediate circumstances. This makes it difficult to generalize what "works". Motivation springs from the prospect of positive or negative consequences, and a host of intrinsic and extrinsic factors, all of which vary from individual to individual...and vary over time for the same individual. There is no silver bullet - good people managers are students of human nature and can read the needs of their individual staff...and then put the right incentives in place to motivate them.

    • marcofratelli profile imageAUTHOR


      9 years ago from Australia

      Well, money makes the world go round! :)

    • emievil profile image


      9 years ago from Philippines

      I'm an employer and as somebody previously employed also, I can honestly tell you I get motivated with something other than the money. But now that I'm an employer, I don't see the same thing. It's money, money, money for a majority of my people. Plus good, delicious snacks, salary increases (still about the money) and more free time. I'm ranting here, sorry :).

    • C. Whitaker profile image

      C. Whitaker 

      9 years ago from Indianapolis, IN

      I think employee recognition is the most powerful tool for motivation. I can remember being surprised when I took a management class and learned that money was very far down on the list of what motivated people! Nice writing brother, keep it up!

    • marcofratelli profile imageAUTHOR


      9 years ago from Australia

      Hey mate! Hmm... It's an incentive to give someone an impression of themselves to live up to. It's an incentive to give someone a challenge. It seems it's also an incentive to basically imply someone is not performing!!

    • dohn121 profile image


      9 years ago from Hudson Valley, New York

      I bought this up hook, line, and sinker at my previous company. I was the top producer and was admired by many all over the company...But that's in the past.

      What really got me going was when management (especially upper management) talked trashed to me. They'd tell me about this New Guy who was putting up some serious numbers yet still was wet behind the ears.

      "How do you sleep at night?" My VP asked me. "This kid is basically telling you that you're a chump...You gonna take that from him?" Things like this really burned me up. After that, I would just drop the hammer and hit the floor running. I didn't want anyone else to top me.

      Thanks Darth! Oh, might go back to my Simpson's avatar later on. It got more attention, methinks!


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