by Linda Lierly
Don’t just look to your annual incentive program to motivate employees. Keep top performers revved up all year long with a steady supply of spontaneous promotional awards. Here are some innovative ideas.
What a day! Your sales team just snagged an account that hadn’t been anticipated, and your office manager got everyone on the same page on an internal project. Bonuses may be in the given future, but what about a special “congratulations’ today? Too bad you don’t have any spontaneous promotional awards on hand.
Spontaneous gifts – small items you can have at the ready at any time – are a good tool for management, “because they not only motivate employees, but they immediately reinforce positive behavior,’ says Wayne W. Eckerson, author of Performance Dashboards: Measuring, Monitoring, and Managing Your Business. In addition, he says, “they communicate to others what type of behavior is rewarded, which helps establish a positive corporate culture.’
Spontaneous rewards can be given out at any time, but they’re most effective when given to employees who do something that’s beyond what’s expected. “Usually it’s best to reward an individual who goes above and beyond his job description or scores an unexpected or unusual success,’ Eckerson says. “Even if an individual fails ?in the right way’ – took a reasonable risk but came up short – a small reward helps reinforce that certain types of risk taking and failures are acceptable, burning this into the corporate consciousness.’
Read on for 25 gifts you can stock up on now to reward star performers anywhere, anytime, for the small but wonderful things they do.
1. Stored value-cards are a natural for spontaneous rewards, because they’re compact and can be offered in a variety of amounts. Keep them in your desk, and reward employees with various increments depending on the level of their greatness. One timely option, given the fluctuating nature of gas prices these days.
2. Pens and pen sets come in many styles – and price points. Stock up on several types, from fun, inexpensive ones (for an employee who achieved a great customer service testimonial from a customer, perhaps) to super-deluxe Cross-style pens (for the sales rep who scored a big deal). One option is this retractable ballpoint pen (below) with a unique, expandable design, in which the barrel extends to a full-size pen when the ballpoint is exposed. It’s great for pockets, purses, checkbooks and planners, and contains an all-metal body with black ballpoint ink.
3. Got box seats for an upcoming football game? Give them to the “MVP of the week,’ along with some fun logoed items, like a koozie or an imprinted seat cushion.
4. Small electronic items, such as USB drives, are easy to store and will attract the attention of all of the techno-geeks on your staff.
5. Keep a few bottles of wine in your office, and let a valued employee take her pick between red and white. Or, give her a bottle of Champagne and two flutes so she can toast her success with a pal.
6. Salespeople love to flaunt their success around the office. Order a number of T-shirts with an appropriate slogan (i.e. “Million-Dollar Club,’ “Closer of the Month’) and make a big deal about bestowing it upon a rep when she hits the appropriate milestone. Every time she wears it, others in the office will be inspired to win their own promotional t shirt.
7. Desk clocks are a long-lasting gift that will be cherished for years to come. And there are many cool options to choose from.
8. A gift card to a book store, along with a customized bookmark with a congratulatory message from you or your company’s CEO, will have a high perceived value among bookworms. A similar option: Keep a stack of a best-selling business book on hand (How Winners Sell is a favorite among salespeople), preferably with a customized book jacket that includes the company logo.
9. Tap into the demand for multi-tasking products, and offer busy employees an all-in-one calendar/calculator with a multifunction calculator and a world time alarm clock.
10. Music download cards are readily available these days. Offer one that can be customized with a congratulatory message to your hard workers.
11. Got a top performer who’s headed for vacation? Give him a onetime-use camera imprinted with your company’s logo to take with him. Or, hand out the cameras at a staff outing (a volunteer event, perhaps) so everybody can commemorate the good time they had with their colleagues.
12. Keychains are inexpensive, can be easily stored and are appreciated by virtually everyone. Keep a variety of whimsical ones on hand ,and let employees select their favorite.
13. Imprinted mugs are great for coffee, tea and cocoa lovers: Pair them with a gift card good for $5 or $10 worth of java, and you’ve got a great reward.
14. Want to recognize a real star? Keep these logoed silver-plated stars on hand to give out whenever an employee goes above and beyond the call of duty. No doubt recipients will immediately put them on their desks so that others will learn about their recent success – and covet their own star.
15. If you have a lot of Do-It-Yourselfers on staff, give them mini toolkits stuffed with all kinds of small items like screwdrivers, precision pliers, wire cutters and shears. They’ll keep it in their toolbox forever.
16. Gift certificates to a local spa are always appreciated. Pair them with a logoed back massager, a small basket of spa oils, or an aromatherapy candle, and invite valued employees to pamper themselves.
17. Got a top salesperson who’s constantly on the road? Give him a car organizer that he can load up with maps, books, pens, tissues and snacks. Maria Carilao, a supplier of such organizers, sold about 2,000 as incentive rewards to several aeronautical and software companies last year. “They’re popular because they’re useful,’ she says. “They eliminate clutter rather than create it.’ Managers also like the organizers, she adds, because they don’t take up a lot of space.
18. Help staffers celebrate recent successes with personalized plaques, statuettes, custom plaques, and custom lapel pins that proclaim, “Star Achiever,’ “Sales Star,’ or another appropriate slogan. They’re small and can be custom-made with whatever logo or slogan you’d like. And employees can wear them every day.
19. Want to let a superstar choose his own reward? The Persona® Enjoy Card, shown above, is accepted at more than 170 popular specialty retail, travel, and entertainment establishments, including electronics, apparel, jewelry, gift, home and garden, sporting goods and department stores. You select the cash amount; your employee does the rest.
20. Food is a fantastic reward, but impractical if you need to store it for a long time. A better option: This gourmet gift certificate gives recipients the ability to choose among six gourmet selections (along with the month in which they’d like to receive it). Choices include international wines, specialty cheeses, gourmet chocolates, microbrewed beers, exotic flowers and hand-rolled cigars.
21. Another idea for those who like to choose their own gift: Offer a magazine subscription gift reward card, which lets recipients choose from about 50 popular magazine titles.
22. Most employees would love tickets to the movies. Some theaters’ gift cards even include popcorn, candy and drinks along with the tix. Another option: Provide gift cards redeemable for movie rentals at a video store.
23. Dining gift certificates are gaining in popularity. Many large chains, such as Darden Restaurants (which include the Olive Garden and Red Lobster chains), now offer a variety of different types.
24. Golfers would appreciate a free trip to the links, courtesy of you. Send them off with a golf driving glove to remember their fun day. This one is available in any size and is made from soft, kid leather with reinforced stitching.
25. Want to reinforce the “safety’ message in employee safety programs? Give workers with spotless safety records a roadside emergency kit that fits into their glove compartments (and your desk). This one includes the essentials for emergencies, such as screw drivers, jumper cables, pliers, a flashlight, an ice scraper and a tire gauge.
Reprinted with permission of Successful Promotions, copyright 2006
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