by B. Leach | April 20, 2017 | 7 Min Read

Employee Rewards Programs Are For Training, Not Tenure

I remember flipping through the catalog of available rewards – clocks, watches, knives, etc. – to celebrate different milestones throughout my 20-year career at Circuit City. While these nostalgic gifts acknowledged two decades of dedication, tenure-based employee rewards programs are leftover artifacts from the early 1900s when labor union laws rewarded tenure. In the truest sense, they’re so last-century.

Forbes notes that 87% of employee recognition programs reward tenure, yet, tenure-based programs have virtually zero impact on an organization’s performance. After all, employees don’t need to perform well to earn a 20-year-reward, they just have to stay on the payroll.

Instead, Forbes recommends recognizing specific results and behaviors; making recognition easy, frequent, and social instead of top-down; and tying recognition to your company’s values and goals.

We couldn’t agree more.

So, this begs the question: does your organization reward employees simply because they stick around for decades, or because it values results and behaviors, like maximizing training opportunities, that contribute to organizational performance? By tying your employee rewards program to training, you can encourage positive behaviors that benefit the organization.

Why Reward Employees for Training?

Zig Ziglar says it best: “The only thing worse than training employees and losing them is not training them and keeping them.”

Training Industry asked the question that’s top of mind: “Is it even worth it to try and motivate people to take training? If people don’t recognize the countless benefits of additional knowledge, should you push them to participate?

Yes, you should. Because an effective training program can exponentially impact your organization’s bottom line. In a perfect world, employees would consume training modules with gusto, but in reality, they need a gentle nudge. The key is deploying enticing incentives to supercharge their motivation and make it impossible for employees to resist the lure of learning.

The goal of incentivized training is to supercharge motivation and make it impossible for your employees to resist the lure of learning.

The Rationale of Rewards

Incentive Federation Inc. reports that U.S. businesses spent $90 billion on non-cash rewards in 2015, up from $77 billion in 2013.

That’s because rewards work: rats run mazes for cheese, dogs perform tricks for treats; and people endure grueling endurance sports for a cool t-shirt and a medal. Employees will change their behavior for a desirable reward. And for the bragging rights that accompany it.

Dr. David Rock, Director of the NeuroLeadership Institute, suggests organizations design motivation strategies that appeal to the brain’s social aspect and help foster a sense of affiliation. According to Rock, “social motivators activate dopamine, triggering the brain’s reward systems.”

What Training Should I Reward Employees For?

That’s up to your individual company and its goals. SHRM emphasizes that training-based employee rewards programs should focus on opportunities that increase the value of an individual to the company. Rewarding employees who apply what they’ve learned in real-world scenarios ensures that your training program makes a tangible difference.

Got low training completion rates? Then reward the behavior of completing the training.

Companies with performance-based problems would do better tying rewards and recognition to applying what they learn – through a quiz or real-life learning situation ‒ to solve their execution problem.

Depending on your specific situation, you can change the desired employee behavior by tying rewards and recognition to a combination of employee training and the measurable results witnessed in a timely manner.

Employee Rewards Ideas

So, what will your employee rewards program look like? Each organization must craft their program to its specific needs, but Training Industry suggests identifying rewards that:

  • your learners want
  • are reasonably attainable, and
  • are immediately redeemable, because if weeks pass between earning and receiving the reward, the connection is lost.

While actual reward items may vary wildly, it’s crucial that they reflect your workforce, its values, and are coveted by employees.

Budget concerns? Here’s a workaround: Employee perks like working from home one day per week, extra days off, or casual dress day make low-cost, high-bragging rights rewards with impact.

Need more ideas? The Incentive Research Fund compiled the most popular rewards categories:

How to Reward Your Employees for Training

Many organizations are exploring how to implement employee recognition programs of their own. Gamification is one possibility, and it’s an easy way to motivate employees to learn.

Here’s an example. In 2016, we introduced Spoke Rewards, which adds real-world gamification to our social learning platform.

Learners earn Spoke Coins for completing training and being recognized by their peers in the Spoke Community. Admins can also award additional coins to employees to reward great behaviors, i.e. observing a job well done in the field.

Learners can then redeem their Spoke coins for rewards ranging from PTO to company swag, or other creative rewards the admins create.

And like magic, training engagement increases company-wide.

Our experience working with our clients to implement these reward programs has taught us that frequently recognizing people for their specific results and behaviors goes a long way. Not only is the recognition top down, it’s social and tied to each company’s values and goals.

See, I told you we agreed with what Forbes said earlier.

Employee Rewards Programs Glean Results

So do employee rewards programs tied to training work? According to The Incentive Research Foundation, well-constructed reward programs that address performance and motivation can increase job performance from 25 to 44 percent. A collateral benefit: increased employee engagement that could result in lower turnover rates. Forbes noted that the top 20% of companies committed to building a “recognition-rich culture” enjoyed 31% lower voluntary turnover rates.

Ready to talk about transforming your employee rewards program with incentivized training that works? Let’s start the conversation. Contact us, or leave a comment below.

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