Last year, the Reward & Employee Benefit Association (REBA) published a report highlighting the positive correlation between rewards and employee motivation. The report is based on a survey in which employees were asked if they felt motivated at work during 2015, and if they had received any reward or recognition. The results were overwhelming, showing that 82 percent of the people who answered “yes,” they felt motivated, had also received some type of reward or recognition for their work. On the other hand, 69 percent of the people who answered “no,” they did not feel motivated, did not receive rewards. If you want to encourage safe work practices, establishing a fine-tuned rewards or incentive program has proven to produce desirable results.

But implementing a reward and recognition program can seem an arduous task – if you don’t know how to approach it. You may have high hopes that implementing an incentive-based safety program will enhance production, decrease accidents and engage employees.

But if that’s a big change from how your business typically operates, you’ll need to give some thought to how to get the most out of the program.

Do you offer the right rewards?        

If you want your rewards program to produce visible results, do your homework. Work to see which type of reward would connect best with the employee. The value that an employee places on an incentive is contingent on a number of factors, one of those being age. The REBA report points out that employees between 25-34 years old prefer a cash bonus, a night out on the company or a gift card to use on their own, while employees from the ages of 45-55 prefer overtime pay, a verbal thank you from a manager, or a cash bonus. If you have a workforce of millennials, verbal recognition or a certificate from a manager might not connect with the staff.

It is essential to align the types of rewards with the workforce itself. If the employee does not value a reward from the start, then what will promote him or her to utilize safe work practices? Nothing. Desirable behavior stems from desired rewards. Gift cards are a growing option of rewards and recognition because of their broad appeal, flexibility, and their ability to be used even in global businesses – but consider what’s right for your team.

Engage employees 

If you sense that some people may adopt the incentive program, but that others will huff and puff or, worse, never use it – then Napoleon might well have the answer. His theory, known as Napoleon’s Thirds, was that there are three types of attitudes to change – those who welcome changes, those who will never change, and those who wait and see. The Change Management Toolkit (WinHope Press) has adjusted this thinking into a great method of dealing with change in the workplace. Having a great sense of which groups your staff fall into will greatly help your new incentive program and improve companywide safety standards. Below are some guidelines to ignite change within each group.

Employees who welcome change:

Assign the competent as leaders

 Deputize the influential as champions

 Mobilize the committed as intelligence

 Involve everyone as changers

 Fuel their loyalty with early, personal wins


Employees who will never change:

 Soften the negative aspects

 Define disincentives (the alternative)

 Remain persistent, deeply committed

 Compromise, negotiate, accommodate

 Demonstrate successes/new concepts


Employees who wait and see:

 Reduce uncertainty: inform early, often

 Reduce anxiety: listen, address fears

 Reduce discomfort: empathize, reassure

 Sell “what’s in it for them”

 Inspire trust: consistency + competence


Ready to launch

If you’ve spent money on an employee reward platform – you need to shout about it. Speak to your marketing team about the possibility of running an internal “drip campaign” where excitement and news about the new reward program can be built over a period of weeks.

Implementing an incentive program doesn’t have to be daunting or scary – but it does require a keen awareness of your staff. Work with leaders in each department to help champion the program and understand potential roadblocks before you hit them to ensure a successful launch. The rewards don’t need to be expensive or exotic, but they do need to be delivered as promised. As the REBA study showed, even a heartfelt “thank you” from a supervisor can go a long way to making your staff feel motivated. And when it comes to safety, every little bit helps.