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Rewards Programs: 5 Rules to Get Real Results

A little friendly rivalry can boost employee performance. But if you don't handle contests carefully, they can backfire.
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Whether on a sales team or anywhere else in an organization, reward programs and contests are supposed to motivate each member of a team to perform at the top of his or her game.

But I’ve seen situations—even in large, sophisticated companies—where the program becomes a hotbed of resentment and frustration.

If you want your award program to promote achievement and team morale while taking you closer to your corporate goals, follow these five rules.

1. Announce the Program Well in Advance

It’s amazing how many companies wait until mid-year to announce an award program that, by then, has been going on for months, unbeknownst to the team. This often exasperates employees—who, naturally, would like to have known about the competition from the start—and cuts their motivation.

To maximize the effect of the program, announce the prizes and the criteria for winning them before you start tracking employees’ performance.

2. Make the Awards Achievable

For the team to be interested in an award, all the members have to think they have a fair chance of winning it. If you set the bar too high, you’ll be seen as out of touch with reality--and your employees will wonder why they should even try.

3. Give Regular Status Updates

High performers are competitive, and they need to be able to track their personal progress against that of their colleagues. To keep everyone motivated, set up a system that allows every team member to see where he or she stands in the rankings at regular intervals.

4. Eliminate All Favoritism

There’s no faster way to destroy morale and motivation than to let the tiniest bit of favoritism creep into an award program. If your team believes you're playing favorites by cooking the books, they will quickly lose interest. (After all, why should they even try if the playing field isn’t level?)

To prevent this, set clear-cut, quantifiable criteria for who wins—and ensure that the tallying of sales reps’ achievements is done by an impartial party.

5. Show Exactly Why the Winners Won

When you finally announce the winners, break those clear-cut, quantifiable criteria back out and show everyone why these people were chosen—this transparency will reduce suspicions of favoritism.

You can also invite the winners to share how they pulled off their excellent results, and even highlight other areas the winners excelled in. This way you reinforce the legitimacy of the results while also highlighting winning practices that the rest of the team can adopt.

Your goal is to have everyone leave the room thinking: Next time, I can win that!

Last updated: Apr 16, 2012

JOHN TREACE

John Treace, a business turnaround expert, has more than 30 years' experience as a sales executive in the medical device industry. He spent more than 10 years restructuring sales departments of bankrupt companies while generating more than $1.5 billion in sales to position them for successful IPOs. He is the author of Amazon’s bestseller book Nuts & Bolts of Sales Management: How to Build a High-Velocity Sales Organization. For more information, please visit Treace Consulting.




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