Motivating Employees to Go Above and Beyond With Incentives

Want to increase employee output and performance, or ensure team commitment to a new initiative? You can prompt workers to step up their efforts by using incentives.

Incentives are closely linked to the concepts of rewards and recognition. While the latter serve as after-the-fact “thank you’s,” incentives are carrots you can use to motivate employees to reach for a performance goal.

What you want to do is get staff excited about your business objectives. Sure, you pay them a salary and expect them to perform their job duties. But when you need to kick-start their level of enthusiasm or you require a truly exceptional effort, offering something beyond the ordinary can go a long way toward getting results.


Giving employees a goal to strive for creates enthusiasm and can motivate them to work extra hard. Telling them up front what you’re offering in return will help to create that extra spark when you need it most.


Incentives are most commonly associated with cash rewards. This can be effective in some environments, but should not be considered the only option. Depending on the resources you can afford, you might consider offering a trip, a day off, gift certificates, a trial promotion, a special plaque, or devoting organizational time toward something in the recipient’s honour. Remember, not everyone is equally motivated by money, so it’s important to know what your staff will respond to. Don’t know? Ask them.


Scale your incentives to reflect the effort you require. It doesn’t have to be big to be effective, but the size of the reward should mirror how much extra you’re asking of your employees. If you need staff to go all out to meet your goals, make it worth their while. Let them know how important their dedication is to the organization by showing them what it’s worth to you.


Depending on what your needs are, you can structure team or individual goals for your staff. Outline a specific and measurable objective, whether it’s to boost customer satisfaction, reduce waste, or increase sales by a certain amount over a specified time period. It’s important to make the goals concrete, as you don’t want any misunderstandings about whether goals were met. Click here to learn more.

Goals should be a stretch from regular outputs, but must also be reachable. Setting goals at unreasonably high levels will dampen employees’ drive to achieve them. To have the desired effect, it’s important to set your sights within reason.


The final step in using incentives is to publicly acknowledge those who have attained the goal. People want and need to be recognized. Turning the award into a celebratory event entrenches the value of their work for themselves and others.


You don’t want to create an environment where employees will always expect something extra just for doing their jobs. Use incentives on a limited basis when you really require staff to go the extra mile. These might be situations like getting through a busy time or overcoming a staffing shortage, or making the most of a seasonal sales campaign. Employees are likely to respond to incentives when they understand you’re looking for more than the usual effort.