A Different Approach to Incentivization

Andrea Belk Olson
3 min readMar 25, 2024

There’s a lot of advice out there for designing employee incentive programs. Most of it focuses on common tactics including additional vacation days, public recognition, health/wellness reimbursements, referral bonuses, tuition reimbursement, professional development, and monetary bonuses.

Aside from the economic considerations, the bigger question to answer first is always the why and what. Why do you want a program in the first place, and what behavioral changes do you want to see? Often, this discussion circles a few times over until the team lands on the trusty end-of-year performance bonus, which usually is something every employee gets in some shape or form annually, despite the intent of having it change behavior.

How do you pick the right tool for the job? Arguably, you need to first know what you want to achieve and how people can participate in achieving it, whether it be individual goals or organization-wide objectives. However, why pick one incentive across the board for this?

Every employee is motivated differently, and certain things are more important to some people than others. So an alternative approach should focus on shifting the power to employees, enabling them to select what matters most to them. This is what we call an incentive menu.

An incentive menu allows employees to pick from a list of different options, providing a range of choices that fit their lives and interests. Incentive menus can have creative options, along with traditional concepts. This could range from mini-vacation packages to airline flights, to monetary perks, to subscriptions to memberships, to time off, to physical items. The purpose is to build in choice, rather than dictate — think of it as a spin on the “rewards points” concept used for credit cards.

Based on performance, meeting goals, and set time frames, employees could have the option of changing their mix and/or adding more incentives to their portfolios. Depending on which targets are achieved, employees receive the incentives tied to each — giving them some latitude to map which incentives tie to which goals.

Separate from a compensation package, an incentive menu gives employees a say in what motivates them to meet their goals. Instead of having a one-size-fits-all incentive structure, consider a creative approach in which people can choose their motivational tools.

About the Author

Andrea’s 25-year, field-tested background provides practical, behavioral science approaches to creating differentiated, human-focused organizations. A 4x ADDY award-winner, TEDx presenter, and 3x book author — she began her career at a tech start-up. She led the strategic sales, marketing, and customer engagement efforts at two global industrial manufacturers. She now leads a change agency dedicated to helping organizations differentiate their brands using behavioral science.

In addition to writing and consulting, Andrea speaks to leaders and industry organizations worldwide. Please contact Andrea to access information on her book, keynoting, research, or consulting. More information is also available at www.pragmadik.com or . www.andreabelkolson.com

Originally published at https://www.linkedin.com.



Andrea Belk Olson

Behavioral Scientist. Customer-Centricity Expert. Prolific Author. Compelling Speaker. More at www.andreabelkolson.com