The Incentives Employees Want: What You Need to Know

The Incentives Employees Want: What You Need to Know

Boosting employee engagement can require a number of different strategies. This blog has covered several in the past. That said, one of the more effective ways to engage workers is to offer the right incentives.

It’s easy to assume this always means offering higher pay and more attractive benefits packages. While this can improve engagement to a degree, it’s actually not always the best way to motivate and inspire employees, and you may still have engagement problems even if you offer highly competitive wages and generous benefits. It turns out there are other incentives that may be equally or even more important to your workforce. As an HR professional, part of your job is to identify these motivators and coordinate with managers to determine how to provide them.

To do this, you first have to know what your employees really want from your company. Surveying the workforce is key to determining precisely how you can better engage everyone. In the meantime, however, the following are some of the more noteworthy incentives workers are generally seeking these days, according to various polls, surveys, and other research.


Flexible Scheduling

Employees in a traditional work environment are expected to arrive and leave at the same time every day. Even if they complete their daily tasks early, they still need to sit at their desk and wait for close of business before they can go home.

This schedule is becoming increasingly less acceptable to workers. Millennials in particular heavily value a flexible work schedule arrangement when considering employers. They believe allowing people to work when they want (and, if possible, where they want) results in greater productivity.

They may also be correct. Early studies have shown that workers who are permitted to quit the nine-to-five routine in favor of a more flexible arrangement actually accomplish more than employees who aren’t granted such flexibility.

This is worth keeping in mind. Incentivizing workers by offering more scheduling options may be key to boosting both engagement and long-term productivity.

Growth Opportunities

There may have once been a time when the typical worker was content to perform the same tasks day after day, year after year. That’s no longer the case. Surveys and studies consistently reveal that today’s employees are ambitious. They don’t like the idea of being stuck in dead-end roles with no hope of advancement. Instead, they seek opportunities to develop their skills and climb the corporate ladder.

This is another incentive you can offer at your company. Making sure employees understand they will have chances to take on new responsibilities and learn new skills can motivate them to perform to the best of their abilities. You can also regularly offer employees the opportunity to participate in voluntary training programs.

Along with boosting engagement, this tactic often helps companies identify their strongest and most dedicated workers, or at least those who are interested in something more. For example, those who make a point of attending voluntary training sessions are clearly hard-working people who are eager for new challenges. Those who generally opt not to participate may have more modest ambitions.


Some factors impacting employee engagement are fairly basic and practical. Offering flexible schedules at your company may be a big change, but because it involves something concrete, it may not be difficult to implement once you work with other company leaders to decide on the policy.

Other factors that motivate people are vaguer—for example, a sense of purpose. Though purpose is an abstract and subjective concept, you shouldn’t overlook it simply for that reason. You can gain a major competitive edge by providing workers with this key to engagement.

Studies indicate employees who are driven by a sense of purpose tend to become high-achievers at their organizations. They exhibit all the clear signs of being engaged with their roles: greater productivity, greater loyalty to their employer, and stronger-than-average relationships with coworkers.

It’s worth noting that some employees may naturally have a sense of purpose. They’re naturally self-motivated and conscientious, they’re good friends with their coworkers and find purpose as part of a team, or they have a strong personal affinity for your organization’s work. Unfortunately, that’s not going to be the case with every employee. Some will need you to clearly demonstrate the purpose and value of their contributions.

This is why it’s very important for organizations to frequently remind employees of their values and mission. When an employee doesn’t feel as though they are helping their employer achieve a worthy goal, their only motivation is their paycheck. However, when they believe that their work is truly significant, they are typically more engaged.



Again, employees want to know their work has value. This means that managers need to acknowledge employees’ contributions when they work hard, complete a major project, or achieve a similar commendable goal. This engagement-boosting tactic is both simple and effective. If you want to incentivize employees, make it clear their hard work will be recognized and praised.

None of this is to suggest that you shouldn’t also prioritize fair pay and good benefits. Compensation is obviously a crucial element of any employee engagement strategy. Just remember, it is by no means the only crucial factor.

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