Looking for an innovative way to rev up employee motivation--and show them you appreciate the work they do? Take a tip from Doug Sears, who thought a good way to keep his employees' wheels spinning would be to offer a real set of wheels as an incentive. But instead of choosing a deserving employee himself, the owner of executive search firm DS&A and software development company RecruitMAX Software in Orange Park, Florida, let his 50 employees choose who would win the use of a 1997 Ford Mustang GT convertible for a year.
From June to December last year, employees were encouraged to recognize positive performance by co-workers with "Dream Dollars"--forms that looked like dollar bills. Employees noted the recipient's name, their own name and the reason for the award on the bill. Reasons ranged from handling a difficult situation successfully to simply brightening someone's day with a pleasant attitude. At the end of the contest period, the dollars were tallied, and the employee with the highest number was handed the keys to the car at the companies' holiday party in December.
The one-year lease on the car, plus gas and insurance, will cost the companies $10,000 to $12,000--an investment Sears believes is well worth it. During the contest period, the companies posted a 200 percent increase in sales over the same time period the previous year--from $382,000 to $1.5 million--which easily covered the cost of the contest with profits left over. In addition, Sears says the contest created a stronger sense of teamwork because the employees chose the winner.
"This contest has instilled something in each and every employee here," Sears says. "We are a team, and they are all first-string players."
Jacquelyn Lynn is a business writer in Winter Park, Florida.