Winning at Work: 8 Amazing Workplace Incentives for Overachieving Employees

Winning at Work: 8 Amazing Workplace Incentives for Overachieving Employees

Overachieving employees are a flight risk. They might get bored with easy challenges (easy for them) or bored with a lack of recognition for their consistently above-and-beyond efforts. If they do leave, it’s an expensive task for you to replace them, and you run the risk of losing the high-performance culture they tend to create.

Workers who go the extra mile shouldn’t be ignored; they should be rewarded, encouraged, and appreciated. So what to do, before it’s too late? We’ve got you covered; check out our list of 8 amazing workplace incentives for staff who overachieve.

Workplace Incentives That Work (And What Doesn’t)

Ask most people for ideas for good workplace incentives, and they’ll tell you ‘monetary bonus’. Yes, a partly commission-based pay structure can motivate salespeople. But throwing money at people for a job well done isn’t an effective workplace motivator according to the research.

Psychologist Frederick Herzberg found that what causes workplace satisfaction is not simply the opposite of what causes dissatisfaction. It’s helpful data when we consider monetary incentives. In his ‘Two-Factor’ theory, Herzberg says things like money, work conditions, and relationships have to be ‘good enough’ to take them off the table.

Beyond this point, getting more of them, or improving them, didn’t make us more satisfied. He calls them ‘Hygiene Factors’. So, to keep your high-performing staff around check you’re paying them enough, but don’t expect to make them stay by paying them more than that.

So how do we motivate them to stay? Two-factor theory lists the workplace motivators as achievement, recognition, tasks, responsibility, advancement, and growth. These are the areas your workplace incentives need to play to.

8 Amazing Workplace Incentives for Over-Achieving Employees

We’ve taken the research into account in considering 8 workplace incentives that play to motivators. We’re assuming you’ve already dealt with getting those ‘Hygiene Factors’ off the table. Let’s take a look at the list.

1. Hand-Written Thank-You Notes

In this digital age, you can really gain points by switching channels. Go analog to show how much you care, and script a sincere thank-you note when you see someone go above-and-beyond. Avoid fluff because it isn’t effective positive reinforcement.

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Breakdown what you saw or heard them do, what the positive impact of that was, and why it meant something to you or the company.

So, instead of ‘thanks for the project, it was awesome!’ Try: ‘Our client just called me to say they’re thrilled with the project. I know you put in late nights to get it to such impressive detail. You know how important it is for your company to never negotiate on quality, that’s why it means so much to me that you were able to wow them. Thank you’.

See the difference? The latter makes it clear exactly what they did well and why it had such an impact. That’s what we call effective, meaningful, positive reinforcement.

2. Give a Gift

This plays to the recognition motivator. Especially if you present the gift at a meeting – though, make sure you know your high-performer will like this. For some, a public ceremony will make them want to crawl into a hole in the ground.

What sort of gift? It might be some cinema vouchers, a massage voucher, or an engraved acrylic award like you’ll find at this useful link. If they’re active consider a 3-month gym pass.

Choose thoughtfully, the more personalized the gift, the more it will mean. Don’t buy a gift certificate to a golf shop for a book worm.

3. Have a Meal as a Team

Any anthropologist will tell you that ‘breaking bread’ as a group is one of the most meaningful activities in any human culture, anywhere in the world. So, if you’ve got a team of high-performers or a few stars, take the team out to celebrate their success. It makes those putting in the extra effort feel appreciated and tells those that could do better exactly what to do to get your attention.

If it wasn’t already obvious, let’s be clear; the boss foots the bill!

4. Give a Video

We love this for groups that have put in a big effort on a short-term project or at a tough training. Film them at work – your phone will work just fine as a camera and cut it up to a moving song. Sentimental and appreciative – they’ll love it.

5. A New Challenge

We know what you’re thinking. Reward them with more work?! Think back to the Two Factor Theory.

Advancement, responsibility, and growth are key motivators that make a new challenge the perfect reward. The trick is to strike a balance. The challenge needs to stretch their abilities but not cause undue stress.

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It might be developing or leading a new project or initiative, or making changes to company policy. Give them support, but the freedom to make some mistakes along the way.

6. Custom Coffee Cups

Invest some money into an awesome coffee cup with a special name or message for them. This ticks a lot of boxes, even more so if it’s an eco-friendly choice for their takeaway coffee! This is the sort of gift of appreciation that keeps on giving, as every time someone sees the mug they get more recognition.

7. Fruit and Veggie Boxes

We most want our family to recognize our efforts. And you want them to be healthy. Two birds, one stone.

Imagine the scene: their partner or kid goes to the door to receive a delivery of organic farm-fresh fruit and vegetables. What’s all this about? They see the handwritten card on top thanking them for the activity they did so well and explaining why it made a big difference.

They get to feel appreciated for their work and to have that moment of recognition in front of the people they most care about, their family. That’s what we call a win-win.

8. A Double Pass to Yoga Class

If they’re partnered or married you can buy them a voucher to couple’s yoga, and if not, a double pass to take a friend. This is another gift that ticks a bunch of boxes. It promotes wellness, helps them feel appreciated, and gives them public recognition for their hard work.

How Will You Appreciate Over-Achievers?

We’ve given you 8 amazing workplace incentives for your high-performing employees. Which ones will you choose, or have you got more of your own ideas? Tell us what ideas worked for you in the comments!

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