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Staff sweeteners

Staff incentive schemes can seem like something which means paying out more money rather than a way of making it. But I see them as an essential part of employee management. As a manager in the waste and recycling industry myself until a few years ago, I knew all too well the problems caused by employees, either permanent or agency, turning up with only half their mind on their work. I firmly believe there are better ways tomanage people. An engaged, content and motivated workforce are worth a huge amount to any business.

Why do it?
Staff ‘churn’ costs UK employers millions every year in lost productivity, recruitment and training. All this has a direct impact on your bottom line, so it makes sense to try to keep hold of your workers. With many agency or temporary workers filling spaces in the waste and recycling sector, it can be easy for staff to feel demotivated by job insecurity and being moved frequently between jobs. A word of recognition from managers is always welcome, but sometimes a little more than that is needed.

The best way to do this is to run systemised recognition schemes which reward people in a way which suits them.It is also a way of monitoring your staff and their productivity levels without making it feel like a surveillance operation.

But won’t it cost me money?
Yes, incentives obviously cost money. But the value they bring far outweighs the initial costs. When you are concentrating on number-crunching and hitting targets, it can be easy to forget that a lot of the work carried out in our sector is very repetitive. While this is an essential part of the job, it can mean that people get bored and disengaged - meaning that productivity and profits slip. Incentive schemes can seem hard to quantify because it can seem as if all you are doing is making someone feel better. In fact, good incentive schemes will pay for themselves very quickly because the cost of replacing staff is minimised, productivity increases and profit is never far behind. At Smart we introduced the SMART incentive system, which rewards our flexible workers beyond basic pay. This has had a significant increase in productivity levels, meaning clients are saving money and getting more work done.

How does it work?
The SMART system rewards staff on how well they hit targets we agree with clients. This might be based on productivity levels such as a picking rate or personal attributes such as punctuality and good attendance. Once these have been agreed, we implement systems which track and measure each employee. A points system allows people to work towards different levels of reward, cashing in their points when it suits them. Tailor your incentives to fit your workforce: often the best way to do this is to ask them. They may prefer to build up points to get the latest TV or take a value in shopping vouchers - there is no point having a scheme which gives people food hampers if they are really into football.

Try to keep any award scheme simple so that people can understand their progress easily, even if they are working on different sites with different companies. And make sure you build bonuses into your overheads budget from the start, making realistic assumptions about how well people will perform. Incentive schemes, even for temporary employees, drive engagement, productivity and profit. When employees feel personally rewarded for the hard work they do and benefit directly from good company results, they will be feel engaged in the success of thecompany as a whole. Incentive schemes are not just an added extra, they should be an essential part of yourbusiness strategy.
Nathan Bowles is chief executive of Smart Solutions Recruitment

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