Incentive schemes are effective at preventing boreout because they provide an acknowledgement of effort.1 Their overall aims are to motivate, attract, and retain talent. It’s helpful to think of them as a collection of rewards and benefits, such as flexible working, career development opportunities, and corporate discounts.

When creating an incentive scheme it’s important to understand what your employees value so that what you offer is meaningful to them. We also recommend looking at what similar companies offer to get an idea of what suits your organisation.

Read on to learn more about nine effective employee schemes and how to create yours.

Fulfilled employees enjoying a free trip to the cinema.

What makes a great employee incentive scheme?

Every organisation is unique, so what makes an employee incentive scheme great will differ between companies. However, no matter what type of business you have, when creating a scheme of your own, it’s important to always consider your company values and budget. Once you’ve got those in order, you should focus on how your incentive scheme will help you reach your business goals.

Having said that, some businesses will find this easier than others. Especially more established organisations that have gone through several stages of growth and development. In comparison, a start-up will likely experience a period of trial and error before they know what incentives work well for them and their teams.

To give you an idea of what to include in your employee incentive scheme, we recommend investing in a mixture of financial and non-financial incentives such as:

  • A reward and recognition program
  • Corporate discounts and perks
  • Mental and physical wellbeing resources
  • Mentorship opportunities
  • Autonomy over a passion project
  • Professional qualifications
  • Tuition-fee reimbursements
  • Performance-related bonuses

Stuck for employee incentive ideas? We've made a list of our top 20

Employees sitting together at work and smiling in the bright office.

Why create an employee incentive programme?

More often than not, the purpose of an employee incentive scheme is to improve employee morale and increase engagement – but in reality, they do much more than that.

Now, you may be thinking you’ve no need for an incentive scheme as your employees are happy and hitting their targets. Yet, while this may be the case, many organisations are beginning to recognise the value of incentive programmes. In particular, their influence on attracting new talent.

A well-put-together incentive programme not only gets the most out of your employees but is also a powerful recruitment tool. In the wake of the Great Resignation, many employees are prioritising incentives, such as rewards, perks, and work-life balance over salary or base pay.2

It’s also worth mentioning that as remote working is more common, it’s important to keep your people connected. Incentive schemes that focus on peer-to-peer recognition are great for preventing siloed teams and provide a well-needed boost to employee morale.

Of course, while we know the benefits of an employee incentive programme speak for themselves – it’s helpful to think about their impact on your business and employees. Taking this approach helps you identify what to include in a pitch when approaching senior stakeholders for funding.

Employees enjoying their workplace incentives over coffee

Here are some examples to get you started:

Incentive scheme benefits for business

Depending on how comprehensive the incentive scheme is, the benefits for your business may include:

  • Higher levels of productivity
  • Lower absence rates
  • Lower employee turnover
  • Increases in revenue and profit
  • Healthy company culture

Incentive scheme benefits for employees

An effective incentive scheme could benefit your employees in the following ways:

  • They feel happier at work
  • They’re more willing to go the extra mile
  • They’re mentally and physically more resilient
  • Their financial wellbeing is healthier
  • They have a better work-life balance

Yoga is a common employee incentive for workplace wellbeing

Companies that have great incentive schemes

Developing an employee incentive scheme can be very difficult, especially if you’re starting from scratch. If you’re in need of some inspiration, we recommend looking at what other companies are doing.

Companies who have very successful incentive schemes include:

  • Google: Perhaps the most famous of incentive schemes. Googlers get free food, start-of-art sports facilities, sleep pods, and more. However arguably their most impressive is their death benefit, where your spouse receives 50% of your salary for 10 years if you pass away while employed by Google.
  • Facebook: Facebook prides itself on its family support, with 4 months paid parental leave and a bonus to support the costs of a newborn. Inside the office, employees benefit from a barbershop and video game arcade. They also offer their teams a plethora of wellbeing benefits too.
  • Hubspot: Hubspotters enjoy working at one of the most flexible companies in the world. Not only do they get unlimited holiday, their paid leave increases by 4 weeks for every 5 years they stay at the company.
  • Starbucks: Coffee lovers will enjoy the free coffee and tea sent to them every week. Beverages aside though, Starbucks employees also benefit from tuition-fee reimbursements and extensive healthcare benefits.

Remote employee enjoying an employee incentive scheme outside the office

Nine employee incentive scheme examples

We understand that choosing what to include in your incentive scheme is challenging. So, for that reason, we’ve shortlisted the nine most effective incentives that apply to all businesses.

Consequently, you’ll see examples that are applicable to both small businesses and large corporations.

1. A reward and recognition programme

Introducing a reward and recognition scheme is a highly effective incentive that increases both employee motivation and engagement. According to Harvard Business Review, acknowledgement from peers or senior management is especially important for socially-driven employees. And, given that remote working is now more commonplace, it’s important not to assume your teams are fine with fewer interactions with their colleagues.3

Using the recognition feature with Perkbox, employees can send each other personalised recognitions on the go and link them to company values. Another useful feature is that you can also create polls, which your teams can vote on. This works well with remote colleagues as everyone can get involved and have their say on where the next social event should take place, for instance.

When building a reward and recognition incentive scheme, you have plenty of options, although some cost more than others.

In your reward and recognition programme you could include:

  • Employee of the month
  • Thank you notes
  • Lunch with the boss
  • A digital reward and recognition platform
  • Performance-linked bonuses
  • Sabbatical

Find out why employee motivation is important and how to improve it

Employees smiling at a team meeting and enjoying their perks package

2. A comprehensive perks package

With the ever-increasing cost of living, perks – no matter how small, can make a real difference to your employees’ lives and financial wellbeing. Treating them to a free coffee or cinema ticket may seem like a modest incentive but over time these savings add up to a considerable sum.

Perkbox includes over 9,000 discounts and deals with some of the biggest retailers worldwide and can save your teams money all year round. In addition to that, you can also give your employees an allowance of Flexi points, which they can spend on small treats at no cost to them. These include meal deals, movie streaming credits, and much more.

To give you an idea of the types of perks you can offer your employees, we’ve split our suggestions according to budget, so you can choose what’s right for you.

Perks for smaller budgets include:

  • Reloadable coffee shop cards
  • Free office drinks and snacks
  • Monthly breakfast or lunch events
  • Discount schemes with local businesses

Perks for bigger budgets include:

  • Contributions to travel expenses
  • Dental and medical insurance
  • A more comprehensive employee discount scheme
  • Company cars

A woman enjoying a lot of employee discounts and other financial incentives.

3. Employee wellbeing benefits

Fortunately, many organisations understand that for their employees to perform at their best, they need to be both mentally and physically healthy. And there’s no doubt that building healthy habits can be challenging. Especially as the demands of our professional and personal lives collide.

When your employees have Perkbox they get access access to a range of on-demand workouts and yoga flows if they can’t get to the gym. Not to mention soothing sleep stories and guided meditations to help them switch off and get a good night’s sleep.

General wellbeing incentives include:

  • Healthy snacks at the office
  • Walking clubs
  • Discount on supplements and activewear
  • Mental health days
  • Health cashback plan
  • A digital wellbeing platform
  • Discounts with local gyms

Additional wellbeing incentives for bigger budgets:

  • Employee Assistance Programme (EAP)
  • Private medical insurance
  • Unlimited sick days

Two employees smiling together

4. Profit-sharing plans

Profit-sharing incentives are a good option for organisations who want to improve retention, engagement, and motivation. When people receive payments from a profit share they feel part of the business. This fosters an entrepreneurial spirit and you may see colleagues sticking around for longer as they directly benefit from your success.

5. Flexible working options

Flexible working incentives have many benefits. But one big benefit for businesses is an increase in output. In fact, a 2021 Gartner survey recorded that 43% of respondents said that working flexibly made them more productive.4

Employees who work flexibly also tend to be happier and more loyal than those who don’t. However, when introducing any initiatives around flexible working, it’s important to ensure your people have the right tools to do their job – wherever they choose to work. Connectivity issues and out-of-date tech are common gripes among remote employees for example.

Employee working from home using her laptop and a phone

6. Additional time off and unlimited annual leave

Creating an incentive that gives your employees more time off, doesn’t necessarily mean increasing their annual leave. Though this is a good idea if you have the budget. Many people would like to take less pay in return for more free time – when given the opportunity.

Obviously, this all depends on your business needs and individual circumstances, but if some employees want to reduce their hours, it could be mutually beneficial. The money you save on their salary could be reinvested into other areas of the business. Furthermore, the time your employee gains benefits their mental health, preventing burnout and stress.

7. Independent project opportunities

Incentivising your teams to work on their own projects is a great way to show you trust and respect their judgement.

Simply put, high-performing employees need stimulation and when they lose interest their job satisfaction plummets. In these situations, unless something changes quickly, they’ll swiftly move on to the next challenge.

After all, everyone wants to make their mark and highly engaged employees will love working on autonomous passion projects. Before you suggest any project options, take note of your employees' short and long-term goals, so you understand what they want to achieve.

A wall full of multicoloured post-it notes

8. Professional development options

It’s not surprising that professional development incentives benefit both your business and employees. Having access to a steady stream of highly-trained staff not only increases revenue but also strengthens the customer service you deliver.

Furthermore, companies who develop their own learning and development programmes tend to see higher levers of job satisfaction and engagement than those who don’t.

Examples of different professional development resources include:5

  • Seminars and day workshops
  • Conferences
  • Subscriptions to eLearning platforms
  • In-house learning and development opportunities
  • Off-site learning for an industry-recognised qualification

9. Bonuses and raises

Financial incentives linked to performance are powerful motivators. However, when an organisation puts an emphasis on individual performance, they risk pitting their teams against each other. For this reason, it’s important not to neglect incentives that grow your company culture and support your employees' mental health.

When you’re drawing up policies that determine what behaviours or results qualify for a raise or bonus, you shouldn’t make the benchmarks too high or low. If the prospect of a bonus or raise seems impossible your teams are unlikely to go the extra mile, as they know their effort will be for nothing. Alternatively, if the benchmark is too low you run the risk of overspending.

HR professionals smiling together as they create an employee incentive programme

Employee incentive programme best practices: three principles to follow

So you’ve got senior leadership to sign off on your employee incentive scheme, now what?

Well, at this stage you want to make sure you give your fledgling incentive scheme every chance of success. You can do this by following these three best-practice principles.

Make your incentive scheme accessible

When your incentive scheme is accessible, it means every employee has access to the incentives they’re entitled to. So, if you’re using a digital platform to deliver any company discounts and wellbeing resources, you should test it before launch. If your app or program is confusing, people won’t use it and this could have a negative impact on your return on investment (ROI)

Employee holding a cup of coffee and walking inside a glass corridor

Promote your employee incentive scheme

Before launching your employee incentive scheme, drum up interest with a company-wide promotion. You can do this by working with your internal communications team to create a promotional campaign. Reaching out to Human Resources (HR) is also very important as your incentive scheme will likely draw job candidates to your company.

When you sign-up with Perkbox, we give you a suite of promotional materials to help you effectively roll out our platform within your company.

Listen to your employees’ feedback

Whether you’re testing or monitoring the launch of your employee incentive scheme, gathering feedback is a crucial component of its success. Pulse surveys are excellent tools for quickly discovering any pain points or ideas you didn’t think of. We also recommend using employee engagement surveys for a deeper insight into the effect of your incentive scheme. For example, have engagement and job satisfaction increased, since its launch?

An employee being recognised and rewarded in the middle of a company meeting.

Reward and recognise your employees today

Whether you’re building an incentive scheme from nothing or overhauling an existing programme, it’s important to remember there are plenty of rewards and benefits for all sorts of budgets.

Usually, companies prefer working with all-in-one platforms as employees have access to all of their incentives in one place. A significant benefit of working with a solution provider is that they can include and remove different features depending on your needs and budget.

It’s good to keep in mind that businesses who are good at motivating and engaging their teams have strong core values and actively listen to what their employees want. So, when creating a solution make sure you’re collecting employee feedback and choosing incentives that give your teams the most value.

Want to know how Perkbox can help you build an employee incentive scheme to be proud of?


What are the types of employee incentive schemes?

Incentive schemes include a selection of benefits and rewards that motivate and engage employees. Usually, some or all of them are accessible on digital platforms or comprehensive employee incentive programs. Rewarding employees is simpler if you're using an all-in-one solution as all of your benefits and perks are in one place. The exact types of rewards and benefits in each incentive system differ between companies, but usually, most contain a variety of flexible working policies, corporate discounts, and wellbeing resources.

How do you give employees incentives?

What are the best employee incentives?

Learn how you can reward and recognise with Perkbox

Celebrate and motivate your employees no matter where they’re working — in one building, remotely or across multiple locations.

  • Create a culture of appreciation that engages employees wherever they are
  • Boost productivity and employee retention
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