In sports, every great team is made up of individuals who are committed to helping the team succeed. At times, this focus on the collective can come at the expense of individual glory.
However, this makes sense, as we usually find that the success of individual athletes in team sports is directly tied to the success of the teams they played for.
Now, you might think I’m going to segue into the ways that incentives can help your organization function like a successful team.
Actually, I happen to think that team sports aren’t the best correlation when it comes to business—and I’m not alone in this opinion.
For starters, sports are based on competition, on winning and losing.
To some extent, so is business, but in any given industry or channel, there can be more than one winner, unlike in sports.
Thus, the spirit of competition won’t always work to motivate every individual in an organization, especially when competition is as likely to be found within an organization as often as it is outside of it.
So what else can motivate individuals?
Other factors include recognition, praise, individual achievements, and—as reductive as it may say sound—rewards.
In fact, research has shown that providing rewards to individuals not only boosts the performances of the individuals themselves but can also improve the performances of those working with and/or around them.
In other words, when done right, individual rewards can be highly... rewarding... for the organization as a whole. But a key here is determining how, when, and what types of these rewards should be conveyed to the individuals who deserve them.
Ways To Use Individual Rewards
One great solution is to offer an individual reward as a form of recognition.
Whether you want to thank an individual team member for clearly adding value over a period of time, acknowledge a length-of-service anniversary, or recognize a particularly impressive one-time performance, an individual reward can serve as tangible proof that an individual’s efforts have not gone unnoticed.
Within a broader incentive strategy, an individual reward might be used to stimulate competition among a group of top customers.
Let’s say your existing long-term program is about to conclude, but you happen to be releasing a new product right about this time.
Instead of extending your budget to include an additional program-like promotion—or worse, letting the opportunity to really promote this product pass you by—you could simply offer a customizable individual reward to the person who purchases the most or the persons who achieve a particular purchasing threshold.
Types of Individual Rewards
One of the most obvious benefits of offering individual rewards is that they can be customized to match the specific interests of those who will ultimately receive them, not to mention they can be made to fit within any budget.
For example, you could go big and offer an individual travel reward, providing a “wow” factor that’s both flexible and exciting. This could be a 4-night Caribbean cruise, a 3-night stay at a luxury all-inclusive resort, or a weekend getaway to a desirable domestic location like Lake Tahoe, Washington D.C., or the Grand Canyon.
Conversely you could opt for merchandise rewards, which could range from something conventional like a new iPhone or Xbox, to a more targeted reward like signed sports memorabilia that would play to the demographics of your particular audience.
A third option that splits the difference of these two would be a custom experience reward, something that is unique and unforgettable but at the same time won’t necessarily break the bank.
These could include a trip for two to a deluxe spa resort, tickets to an in-demand Broadway show, or something more extravagant like a package that features great seats at that Big Game every February.
For these types of individual rewards, it’s all about the ROE—the Return On Experience. Offering a great experience that your recipient will forever associate with you and your brand is the type of incentive that can have a truly lasting effect.
To have the greatest impact, one best practice to keep in mind with an individual reward is that it should be based entirely on the preferences of your audience.
You don’t want to mistakenly send someone to a Garth Brooks concert when they’re actually a big Jay-Z fan!
Offering a few options, or even sending out a survey to potential recipients beforehand can go a long toward maximizing the effect the reward has.
What makes individual rewards so effective?
They’re designed to specifically motivate individuals, so they can be targeted to just to a particular group or region, but to the specific customers, employees, or channel salespeople.
It would obviously be too much to offer individual rewards to each and every one of your participants but targeting a particularly high-performing individual or a select few who have really went above and beyond can send a message to the rest of the team that you’re willing to reward truly outstanding performances.
The research backs this up, and most importantly, at the end of day, we believe outstanding performances deserve rewards that stand out.