Incentive Programs for the Hourly Workforce

We all know cash is a great way to reward people for their hard work but there are other simple things you can offer as a company to get your employees motivated. In retail where the workforce is 50% part-time and 95% hourly, organizations are constantly trying to come up with fun ideas to engage and motivate employees. Dealing with a diverse population where people are driven by different things can make it challenging to use a one-size-fits-all model. College students may not be interested in PTO bonuses but new apparel is pretty dang cool. Retirees trying to offset their pension payments may not be interested in apparel but are interested in a higher discount on food or products your company sells.

Here’s a few ways to integrate some fun and engaging tools into your workforce:

Tokens of Appreciation

At my company we have a program called “Seeds of Incentive” or more simply put Seeds. Being that the word “Leaf” is in the name of the  organization, “Seeds” made logical sense. We use Seeds as a token of appreciation. They are distributed to managers each month and managers have the discretion to hand them out to employees how they see fit. If a manager watches an employee provide great customer service or notices an employee take the initiate to pick up some trash on the floor, they would hand that employee a seed or two. The seeds have no “cash” value but the employees love earning them! We also distribute them from the HR office and central Support Office when employees have had a favorable secret shopper report, complete certain training opportunities or anything that we want to encourage participation in (without taking the punitive route). Employees can save up their Seeds and trade them in for apparel, gift certificates, movie tickets, spa passes, etc. This is one of the only programs I can say with confidence that every employee understands and participates in across the company at all levels.

Driving a Particular Behavior

We have also focused a lot of our incentive efforts around certain behaviors or programs that we would like to see big improvements in. In the last year we did a major facelift to our safety incentive program. In grocery/retail employee safety and eliminating injuries (especially preventable injuries) is a huge concern to us. It not only affects the bottom line but we legitimately don’t want people hurting themselves. Employees are working fast, moving in repetitious motions, lifting heavy boxes, leaning over, bending down, and the list goes on. We created a workflow with a series of required actions that each store must complete monthly in order for every employee at that location to be handsomely rewarded with tons of Seeds. We made it simple for managers to administer and easy for employees to understand…and whoosh it lowered workers compensation claims and costs. Every month each location is required to hold a safety training , which every employee must attend, all facility repairs that have been identified must be corrected and no preventable accidents. It’s all or nothing, if everything is met every employee at that location get Seeds based on the number of hours they worked that month.

Just a Plain Old Party

Who doesn’t like a party?! Of course events are great ways to get people involved and build awareness for what the company is promoting. Whether it’s just a BBQ to let your employees know you appreciate their hard work and to let loose a little, or a wellness fair to promote healthy behaviors. The list is endless and it can be simple or extravagant. Where I come from, it’s rarely an extravagant fancy dinner but nonetheless, its enjoyed by the majority. You can make a small budget go a long way by renting a grange hall, having a taco bar, raffling some exciting prizes, and finding a local DJ. Host a wellness fair and have booths for local vendors to make it easy for employees to learn about healthy eating, places to exercise, how to stop smoking, etc. Bring some friendly competition to the workplace. If you have different locations choose a goal for each location to compete against each other.

Give Them a Break

In an organization with primarily hourly employees, a little paid time off can let employees know you offer a fun and flexible place to work. Maybe offer a paid half-day or even some extra overtime. Although, legally overtime on most National and/or State holidays is not required, it’s a great incentive for employees to work on those days. In retail, operations don’t stop and during the holidays operations get busier and crazier. Giving employees extra cash for working during a time when many are with their families is a great motivator. Organizations can also offer Paid Time Off bonuses. This way the cash liability doesn’t hit the bank immediately but it provides employees a little extra time off from work.

This is only a few simple examples of how companies can offer more than just a cash bonus to help motivate their employees and provide fun environments to work in.

What incentive programs does your company offer to employees?

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Sabra Reyes

Sabra Reyes is one of those rare Human Resources professionals who knew HR was the career of choice in college. She received a BS in Business with a concentration in Human Resources Management from Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo. After 10 years of HR generalist work, she has found her niche as a Human Resources Director for an independent natural and organic grocery company with more than a handful of stores in the Bay Area region of California. You can find her on Linkedin.


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