Employee incentives help boost morale, retain staff

Finding and hiring qualified talent is certainly one major HR hurdle, but an equally important one is retaining current talent. Agencies organize a variety of employee incentive programs to aid staff retention.

Finding and hiring qualified talent is certainly one major HR hurdle, but an equally important one is retaining current talent. Agencies organize a variety of employee incentive programs to aid staff retention.

In its third year, M Booth's eMBy Awards recognize teams that do successful client work. Teams whose campaigns were submitted to external awards (the PRWeek Awards, for example) can be considered for the annual internal award, which awards each winning team member a $1,000 bonus.

While some incentive programs at the agency offer monetary incentives, others do not. The monthly Idea Award recognizes an idea that benefits the agency through management, client service, or another area. In addition, the Schmooze and Booze committee brings in a speaker every six weeks to address staff on a variety of topics, including one guest who taught employees how to roll sushi.

"Our staff retention rate is high," says Margaret Booth, president of M Booth. "We have about four people leaving a year. [Staffers] feel that we really try to take good care of people, and we want them to feel valued in all kinds of ways."

Employee incentives not only show firm members that their work is appreciated, but can encourage bottom line results as well.

"People work harder when they're happier," Booth says.

At Makovsky & Company, there's a formal incentive plan for executives at the VP level and above that focuses on meeting individual targets, practice area goals, and firm-wide performance. Below the VP level, staff members are given a 10% commission on new business, rewarded for employee referrals, and receive "date night" pats on the back and other rewards.

"One could apply various arithmetic to retention, turnover, hiring, and training," says Steve Seeman, VP at Makovsky, "but [that's] not quite as easily measurable [as the] value of a harmonious group of people."

The incentives come from everyone at the firm. The "We Achieve" program is a peer recognition incentive where employees hand out cards to one another, acknowledging staff members who are working toward the firm's core values, including innovation and collaboration. Card givers and recipients take home a cash reward bimonthly.

"Certainly, incentives are great for retention," Seeman says. "[It's] a supplement to all the other reasons people are attracted to Makovsky."

Another non-monetary incentive is offering employees career experience and nurturing curiosity. Engage PR started a new apprenticeship program for mid-level employees that will allow staff members to delve deeper into the areas of new media, agency operations, and the process of cultivating and winning new business. The option also keeps the lines of communication open between firm management and the millennial generation that is entering the workforce in greater numbers.

"The apprenticeships are one of many things that help with retention," says Jeannette Bitz, VP and partner at Engage. "[It's also important] for a person at my level to hear what the agency needs and where employees can help out."

Key points:
Employee incentives are a staff retention tool

Incentives contribute to a positive work environment and can spur bottom-line results

Agencies can include monetary incentives, fun activities, or rewards that foster career development

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