Incentive programs – or more accurately – influence programs – can and should do a lot of things for you. From shaping opinion and impressions to moving behaviors and creating results, incentive/influence programs are a strategic way to achieve very tactical outcomes. No – not an oxymoron. Just the truth.
But there are things that incentive, reward, recognition and influence programs shouldn’t do. Some examples (not comprehensive nor collectively exhaustive) include:
- Be duplicitous – don’t promise something with no intention of delivering by creating ridiculous goal levels or contests you hope no one wins.
- Make your audience decide between earning an award and hurting another team member because the rules are zero-sum. I can’t win unless you lose. Bad idea.
- Be in opposition to your company mission and values. Those are supposed to be immutable. Use your mission and values to create a better program. If your program violates your mission and values maybe you should reevaluate your program goals. And your moral compass.
- Ignore an audience that has substantial impact on success of your stated goals. I know salespeople are the “front lines” and without sales you have nothing. But – in today’s world team selling is the norm and needs to be considered. Don’t let your incentive for your salespeople overshadow the work that allows them to sell. Find a way to include all the right audiences.
- Leave too much of the awarding to non-quantifiable results. Just because you like Tim and Sarah doesn’t mean they should automatically get the trip to Branson. Incentive programs should never be popularity contests.
Net-Net – if you even feel a little worried that the program you’ve designed is wrong or problematic – it is.
Trust me. That little twinge you feel is your conscience telling you to step away from the program and reevaluate.
Or call me. I’ll be your voice of reason.