Creatively themed incentive programs are more prevalent than in the past, and with good cause. Many companies are turning to inspirational award program themes that are voted on and approved by employees. These themes work best when they truly are a statement of the overall corporate culture. Many of my newer clients have seen that injecting creativity into an employee incentive program and developing a theme can lead to better bottom line results over time.
Besides selecting a theme, I have also found that company mantras are being applied to the employee incentive program as well. Mantras provide insight of what the overall statement of the company really is. Guy Kawasaki cites some of his favorite inspirational corporate mantras in his article titled "Mantras versus Missions" and have listed a few below:
Federal Express, "Peace of mind"
Nike, "Authentic athletic performance"
Target, "Democratize design"
Mary Kay, "Enriching women's lives"
Themes and mantras can be developed by taking employee polls and surveys or utilizing an existing mantra as noted by Kawasaki. The main things that these employee incentive programs have in common is the theme or mantra is a genuine statement of the overall organizational culture.
Examples of incentive program themes include Horse or Car Race referral or sales contests, Hit a Homerun (Baseball) subscription/circulation programs, Star Awards (Oscar-themed recognition program), Thermometer/Hot sales contests and "Go for the Gold" three tiered goal programs (Olympic inspired gold, silver and bronze level of goals/awards).
As noted though, employee recognition programs can easily be formed around an existing mantra too. FedEx could consider extending their company mantra and have a customer service award program with goals for outstanding performance and for delivering "peace of mind" to FedEx customers.
The Star Awards program is a peer-to-peer recognition program where employees nominate each other based on performance and observed behavior. After a year of points being earned, top performers were awarded at a formal recognition dinner in front of the whole organization. Employees were excited to be a part of the nomination process and were very involved with the customer website, logging in daily to check out the overall standings and their points earned.
Developing a creative or innovative employee award program theme requires a little more strategy and creativity, but the payoff is usually seen in the increased participation in and understanding of the program by participants. When an employee incentive program is developed around a company theme or mantra, increased participation and awareness will lead to a better return on investment in the long run.