Wouldn’t it be nice if the same thing motivated everyone? If that were true, you could simply offer everyone a raise, and they’d perform at their peak. They’d immediately address issues with their performance and commit to doing better. Of course, we don’t live in that world.

team incentives

Your team members are diverse. They come from a wide range of backgrounds, have varying interests and needs, and see the world in very different ways. That can make incentivizing performance pretty challenging. However, there are a few things that you can do to help ensure that you’re able to create performance incentives that truly matter to your team.

Do Incentives Actually Work?

The annual performance review is finally falling by the wayside. You might assume that because of this, the need to incentivize employee performance has also evaporated. Won’t regular check-ins, peer reviews, and the ability to provide feedback to managers help motivate your team? Yes, that is true.

However, you still need to give your team members something to shoot for. They need a brass ring of some sort. What’s changed is that you can’t use the same brass ring for everyone.

Why is that? Simply put, some people might not want the tiny raise you’re offering. Sure, more money is more money, but cash doesn’t always motivate people. That’s becoming truer for a larger portion of the workforce as Millennials begin to outnumber Boomers and Gen Xers.

The question, then, becomes one of identifying incentives that your team members value. How do you do that? In reality, it isn’t that hard.

Know Your Team

Perhaps the single most important thing to do is to get to know your team members. Not just their strengths and talents in the workplace, either. Where are they from? What are their interests and hobbies? What do they spend their free time doing? What are their dreams and goals?

Sure, answering all of those questions is hard. In some cases, it might be impossible. However, in the course of trying to answer them, you’ll learn about the people you work with, which is the entire point. The answers themselves are secondary.

Think Outside the Cashbox

It’s also important that you shift your thinking when it comes to incentives. Yes, a small raise here and there is important, valued, and probably necessary just to keep up with the increasing cost of living. Because of that, organizations that only offer raises based on performance keep some of their employees in a state of desperation, which is never a good place to be.

You need to make annual raises part of the perks of working at your organization and shift your view of incentives away from the cashbox. Break out of the mold. Create incentives that deliver more than mere cash can.

Offer Experiences

One way to deliver incentives that truly hold value to your team members is to offer experiences rather than money. For instance, suppose you institute a tiered rewards system. The first prize is an all-expenses-paid trip to Key West. The second prize is a weekend in New York with tickets to Broadway. The third prize is a day of laser tag and go-karting for the winner and one friend.

Each of these prizes has a monetary value. However, the actual appeal of the prize goes deeper than the money because what you’re offering is an experience – something that your employees can only get by winning the prize.

Let Them Go

Sometimes, the best way to incentivize employee performance is to give them the chance to relax and unwind. What we’re talking about here is giving extra time off as a bonus for reaching performance targets. It doesn’t have to be an extra week of vacation, either, although that can be a great option. A few days here, an afternoon there, a three-day weekend – you get the idea. Reward your top performers with some downtime so they can recharge their batteries and perform even better when they come back.


Yes, we’re trying to get away from the cashbox, but sometimes cash can be an excellent motivator. This is particularly true when you’re trying to achieve blanket performance improvement. Gainsharing allows the entire department, or even the entire business, to benefit when performance targets are reached. All this means is that when an increase in company profitability occurs, all employees receive a share of it, usually as a bonus. As the old saying goes, a rising tide raises all boats.

Kill the 9-to-5

Sure, working 9-to-5 is great for many people, but it’s not so great for others. Give your team the flexibility they have been missing in their lives by offering the chance to nix the banker’s hours. How, though? Consider giving team members a list of targets to achieve or benchmarks to reach within a specific timeframe. Once done, their time is their own. They can go full-tilt, work flexibly, or move toward those goals in whatever way they see fit. It might seem like this is a recipe for slacking off and procrastination, but you might be surprised at how it can improve performance.


Finally, you might want to just come right out and ask your team members what they would value most as an incentive. Based on that feedback, you can then create an incentive program that works for the majority of your team. No, you might not be able to accommodate all suggestions, but you’ll certainly do better than just offering everyone a standard cash incentive.

In Conclusion

Incentives can help your team achieve more and work harder. They can boost company success but also team morale. However, to do that, you need the right incentives. Using an annual raise is not a great idea. Get creative. Get to know your team. Learn what motivates each of them, and then create performance incentives that matter to them.