Everyone needs an incentive Featured

9:53am EDT July 22, 2002

Earlier this year, I shared a strategic plan we put in place for our company called the Go Forward Plan. It was divided into four parts: product plan, market plan, financial plan and people plan.

The theme for our people plan is, “Don’t worry, be happy,” and our goal is to create a fun environment for all employees. In a time when the economy is booming and unemployment is at its lowest point in 29 years, your people are your most valuable asset. We decided it was time to differentiate ourselves from other employers in a number of ways.

The first step was not to reinvent the wheel, but to find a company that was doing this successfully. After doing some research, the company that came up over and over again was Walt Disney World. It is regarded in its industry as a leader in motivation through its employee programs.

Walt Disney World has 180 recognition and incentive programs, according to Bob Nelson, author of “1001 Ways to Energize Your Employees.” You may ask yourself if that is overkill. Disney doesn’t think so. It is looking for more. One employee was asked, “Have you helped to bring anyone else to work here?” His reply was 12 people.

Not only is this person doing his day job as a food server, he is acting as a recruiter. When asked what incentives the company uses to motivate him, they ranged from a “shining star” name tag to public praise in meetings. Others included being named in the company newsletter, dinner for two at a nice restaurant, a reserved parking space and the spirit of F.R.E.D. award — a miniature Mickey Mouse statue which stands for Friendly, Resourceful, Enthusiastic and Dependable. Surprisingly, money wasn’t even mentioned. After reviewing several other success stories, it was time to implement our own plan.

The next thing we did was meet with the majority of our people by department and find out their personal, professional and financial goals. We decided that in order to know what motivates our people, we needed to ask them. We gave people a platform to be heard. After filtering the feedback, we had enough information to move forward with our people plan.

Our plan was divided into three separate parts:

n Establish a results-oriented culture.

The idea was to develop quarterly plans for each department. In doing so, everyone has clear expectations as to what role they play in the company with a built-in accountability mechanism. Next, we decided to implement an incentive and reward program based on key performance measures tied into their specific goals. Incentives could include cash bonuses, trips, awards, gift certificates and time off. We found this twofold approach meets our goals for our overall go forward plan as well as our people plan.

  • Develop the full potential of each employee.

    Our goal here is to provide and implement ongoing training for all employees on a yearly basis. This could consist of internal and external training programs.

  • Improve employee understanding of business fundamentals.

    We will share key performance measures on a regular basis with the entire company. Our people need to be educated in all areas of the business to make the greatest impact. Fundamentals include revenues, staffing levels, number of advertisers, advertising market share, advertiser satisfaction, product quality, reader satisfaction, reader request levels, community involvement and employee satisfaction.

We immediately noticed a change in attitude of our employees when implementing our plan and look forward to the rewards for the company to follow. Everyone needs an incentive. Most companies don’t really focus on their employees until it’s too late. Remember, employees will never treat a customer better than they are being treated themselves.