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Do employee incentive programs really increase productivity?

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I was thinking of setting goals and then having incentives such as gift cards, catered lunches, etc.
In my opinion, the one thing that will increase productivity is having each member of your team perceive that they are valued. Feeling valued is the key to employee loyalty. I would avoid anything that sets up a winner and a loser.

Employee loyalty is synonymous with achieving a balance that brings feelings of connection along with a commitment to produce. Ultimately, loyal employees can bring some BIG benefits. Loyal employees promote customer satisfaction--a critical component in business.

Satisfied customers (also known as repeat business) are less price-sensitive and bring in referrals for new business. And, loyal employees who tend to stay put, can help keep recruiting and training costs to a minimal. (However, don't confuse longevity with loyalty. Just because someone is there long-term doesn't mean that she is loyal.)

The following 13 tips are what you need to know about employee loyalty:

1. Set a good example. Show your employees that you take work seriously. If you are out shopping or busy making plans for the weekend, your employees will follow suit.

2. Create clear boundaries. Your employees can have many friends, but only one employer. Yes, you want to be friendly but not at the cost of establishing your unique role and position. Most employees will be delighted to have a boss that can be depended upon to make difficult decisions, call the shots and resolve awkward or burdensome problems--tasks they would never present to a friend or co-worker.

3. Outline each employees' sphere of influence. Each staff member should be clear about where his/her own domain starts and stops. This kind of definition fosters a sense of pride while preventing boundary overstepping and turf wars between employees.

4. Show your employees that you are loyal to them. Never belittle or criticize an employee in public. Avoid threats or any action that might give an employee a reason to question your commitment to him/her. Instead, carefully present your criticisms and see "mistakes" as opportunities for learning.

5. Give your employees something to be proud of. Strive to make your organization the best it can be. Whether you are the CEO of a large corporation, a supervisor in a governmental organization, or running a mom-and-pop shop, you want your product and service to shine so that everyone involved has a sense of pride and accomplishment.

6. Do good deeds. Have an outreach plan that gives both you and your employees a chance to interact with, and give back to, the larger community in a positive way.

7. Reward your employees. Money cannot buy loyalty but money does serve as a metaphor--telling your employees how much you value them. Fair wages, appropriate raises and an occasional unexpected treat can go a long way in building loyal employees.

8. Cultivate peak performance. Provide your employees with training and development opportunities so that they can learn and grow. And, as they develop, challenge them to set and meet high expectations.

9. Foster a team mentality. Encourage your employees to communicate their ideas and allow them to influence company practices and policies. Likewise, share your own vision for the future and your thoughts as to how you will all get there together.

10. Recognize and respond. Everyone appreciates positive feedback. And, once it becomes clear that you are willing and able to provide it, most employees will go the extra mile in order to get it.

11. Build solid relationships. Find common ground, share life experiences, prove your trustworthiness, and be patient as strong relationships blossom over time.

12. The Platinum Rule. There is no blueprint for fostering employee loyalty. As you go about your business, remember that each employee must be seen as an individual - what works in some cases will bring disaster in another. Forget the golden rule--don't treat your employees, as you want to be treated. Instead, find out what each of them needs and wants and proceed with that in mind.

13. Be yourself. Find your own management style. Somewhere between surrogate mother, who is more caretaker then boss and the Leona Helmsley stereotype, who responds to employees with contempt and ridicule, each of us can find our own happy medium.

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