Anyone who has employees, or has been an employee themselves, can tell you that motivation is one of the hardest things to come by.

But it’s also one of the most important. All too often, though, employees feel undervalued or appreciated –which can lead to a lack of engagement and motivation. While managers and employers often feel that simply providing a job and paycheck should be enough, showing your team that they matter –and rewarding them for a job well done can help to boost their motivation, and productivity. According to statistics, 39 percent of employees feel underappreciated at work -and a whopping 77 percent say that they would work harder if they were recognized more.

Unmotivated or underappreciated employees can lead to high turnover rates, meaning additional costs involved with recruiting, hiring, and training new staff –not to mention the downtime during the transition phase. In fact, bringing on a new member of staff costs $4,000 on average, beyond salary and wages.

For this reason, employers should be looking for ways to motivate their workers –and, perhaps more fundamentally –to show their staff that they are appreciated. Offering incentive programs can be one helpful tool in your tool belt of motivational strategies that you can use to help your team to feel more appreciated at work.

With this in mind let’s look at a few ways that an incentive program can help to motivate your team, and see why you’ll want to think about incorporating rewards into your work culture.

  • Encourages Them to Go the Extra Mile

An incentive program can help to encourage an overworked and underappreciated workforce to go the extra mile, giving them a newfound sense of motivation. When your team recognizes that their work matters, they will be more willing to go above and beyond.

  • Shows Them That They Are Appreciated

As we’ve seen, often employees feel that they aren’t appreciated –or that their work doesn’t matter. But offering incentives can help to prove to them that they do, in fact matter, and that their contributions to the company are important –and recognized. Showing appreciation –even something as simple as a “thank you,” can go a long way.

  • Promotes Teamwork

Toxic work environments are often characterized by an unwillingness to work together, and instead become places where it becomes “everyone for themselves.” Implementing an incentive program that’s designed to encourage your employees to pull together and work as a team can help to unite your workforce, further strengthening their efforts; and your company.

  • Increases Profitability

Finally, an incentive program can motivate your employees to work more productively, or manage their time more carefully, resulting in increased profitability. For team members who are in direct contact with customers throughout the day, it can even result in improved customer service as well, which will directly impact a customer’s likelihood of returning.

What Kind of Incentives Should You Offer?

Many companies offer incentives to their employees –these vary considerably across the board with companies implementing everything from sophisticated profit-tied bonus programs, to the spur of the moment “Golden Banana Award” –an impromptu gift of fruit from a Hewlett-Packard manager to a company engineer.

When it comes to incentives, there’s not a one-size-fits-all solution. The program that you should choose will depend widely on your reasons for offering the program –what you hope to accomplish through it, as well as how your employees will respond. Here’s a look at a few examples of rewards that you could incorporate into your program.

  • Perks

Incentives don’t have to cost the world! Sometimes the simplest things, such as a good parking spot, can mean a lot to employees. Other perks would include a free coffee machine in the break room, an extra day off work, a casual dress day, or giving your team the chance to work from home one or two days a week.

  • Travel

Paid vacations for the entire team –or even a weekend getaway for two are both great incentives! Depending on your budget and goals –travel rewards could be used as either a single or a group incentive.

  • Financial Rewards

Gift cards are one of the most popular incentives! They’re easy to purchase –and something that most people will appreciate.

Keep in mind that your incentive program and rewards should be in perfect balance with each other –and take care to manage your team’s expectations. For example, don’t promise them a significant reward, and then give them a $5.00 gift card.

Also keep in mind that some of the best incentive programs are often ones that are built on a mutual understanding, and appreciation. Instead of feeling like you have to constantly dangle carrots in front of your team, try to show them how much you genuinely appreciate their efforts. This will go a long way towards creating a motivated and engaged workforce.