Incentivize Employees - The Internal Marketers

T.J. Schier

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As chains and independents continue to battle for market share and the consumer’s dollar, focusing inward can provide a more profitable approach. Instead of continually trying to attract new guests, incentivize the employees to keep the ones we already have and perhaps get those guests to spend a little more.

Coupons, fliers, commercials, billboards and door hangers may get the message out and the instore signage may plant another seed, but it is ultimately up to the employee talking with the Guest to ‘seal the deal. ’ How many times do we drop the ball after all our other efforts? Today’s employees need an extra incentive to improve performance. Think it may be impossible to get them to sell? Think again.

Many companies create employee incentive programs but the rewards typically aren’t given out until something (outside their control usually) happens – their name is drawn out of a hat or lofty company/store sales goals are hit. We live in an instant gratification society. The key is not to focus on changing attitude.

Instead, focus on rewarding changes in behavior – now! As the employees realize their behavioral changes are recognized/rewarded, the behaviors are repeated, results are achieved and people’s attitudes change – not the other way around. Keeping the good employees is the key to driving your business.

Which rewards are the most effective? Cash? Studies have shown time and time again that cash works great to attract new employees, but is NOT the most effective motivator.

After all, if it were, all servers would suggestively sell to every table as they are receiving 15% of all additional sales. Trouble is, they cannot brag about it (no trophy value) and they simply spend it without thinking about where they received it.

If money does not work, what does today’s employee want? The most effective rewards to drive performance (and your business) include:

  • Custom Ring Tones
  • Music Downloads
  • Custom Shoes – visit You can design your own custom pair of shoes – what a reward. Everywhere the employee goes people will ask them about their shoes and it will be a constant reminder about the company they work for.
  • Time off – everything from an extra 15 or 30 minutes to a paid day off
  • Listening to employees and soliciting their input
  • Thank them for the basics – arriving in uniform, attendance, adherence to procedures and recipes – will ensure repeat performances
  • Gift cards to other restaurants (may be able to trade out to lower your costs)
  • Gas Cards
  • Phone Cards – international calling cards work great for employees with relatives outside of the country.

    While many of these items essentially are equivalent to cash, the employee will remember who gave it to them when they use it. This type of outside-the- box thinking can certainly drive your business with minimal risk or investment. Does it cost money? Yes, but if the system is designed properly, expenses only happen if the employees generate additional sales or profits!

    Contests and programs are a great way to generate excitement and short-term spikes in sales and employee retention, but ultimately, your success is based on the ability to create a recognition-culture where you recognize people’s value to the organization.

    Don’t be fooled - you will still have turnover, but you will be losing the right people. Lose a superstar and your business suffers. Keeping belowaverage employees causes the good ones to leave. If a below-average performer leaves, your team’s performance not only increases, but the ex- employee will most likely go work for your competitor – a double bonus for you!

    T. J. Schier is service professional, consultant and speaker with over 20 years experience in operations and training. Founder and president of Incentivize Solutions and podTraining, T. J. has helped numerous clients enhance their service and training programs and spoken to tens of thousands of managers, franchisees and operators in various fields. Visit for more info motivating today's employees, training today's generation and delivering outstanding guest service; or , a unique new system and the foundation of ‘i-learning’ - using the device of today's generation, the iPod - to train your workforce.

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