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5 Creative Employee Incentives

By 29/03/2021No Comments

Douglas Conant follows a simple philosophy he learned during his tenure as CEO of the Campbell Soup Company: If you want to win in the marketplace, you must first win in the workplace.

It’s employee engagement in a nutshell. A good employee always feels motivated to do their best every day at work. As an employer, there are countless ways to make it so. One example is offering incentives to exceptional staff, often a salary bonus or extra vacation credits.

But, if you really want to motivate your employees, don’t settle for the usual. Some companies take the extra step to get creative in their incentive programs. Of course, it pays to do so in moderation, and you have to inspire your employees for the program to have any real effect.

With that said, get some ideas from some of these creative employee incentives.

  1. Paid Vacation

No, this isn’t about a company paying an employee while on vacation. It’s about a company paying for an employee’s vacation—two different things.

Companies that understand the need for giving their staff a few days off can encourage them to do so by giving them pocket money on top of their wages. Sometimes, the only catch in this incredible incentive is that employees don’t do work throughout their leave. Other times, employees can get paid whether they travel or not, as long as they go on vacation.

  • Free Lunch

For some workplaces, a free lunch is more of a perk than an incentive, but it’s just as successful. The employer or employee gets to choose what to eat for the day (as much as their budget allows). Nothing beats the smell of pizza or the sight of a catering service setting up a nice buffet.

Free lunches (or any other meal for that matter) work on a central principle of human psychology. Everybody loves food or, perhaps, needs food to last the gruelling 9-to-5 shift. People would give anything to feast on dishes they usually don’t eat or are beyond their salaries.

  • Incentive Trips

Incentive travel programs can be a great reward for your team. Nothing beats going on a cruise for days and nights, seeing the world without the employee spending anything for it. Remember that travel packages are more affordable in large groups.

Alternatively, you can offer gift cards to thank select employees for their service. These cards have the distinct benefit of giving the employee the freedom to choose when to use them.

  • CEO For A Day

Giving away the critical position of CEO even for one day might seem reckless. But, to see such a reward for what it’s truly worth, look past its incentive part.

A CEO for a day can receive an unlimited budget to make decisions by the end of the day. If they make a bad call, it’s on them, not the company as a whole. Nominated employees will most likely use this position to provide luxuries in the workplace, if not a change of rules, but that’s the point of it all.

It teaches employees how valuable the decision-making job of a CEO is. No decision on the part of the big boss in the business is right, and the boss can fail more times than you think. Think of it as an incentive masquerading as a life lesson, which is, itself, an incentive—that’s two rewards in one.

  • Covering A Major Expense

Covering an employee’s mortgage or hospital bill might seem to border on the fiscally insane. But, some companies have made it work and managed to foster loyalty in the process.

When video game writer Erik Wolpaw came down with ulcerative colitis in 2004, he assumed that he would have to resign from Valve due to extended leave. Instead, Valve president Gabe Newell surprised him with an offer of extended paid leave until he got better. He stayed with Valve, although now at a contractual setup, helping write the story for Valve’s later games.

Given this example, this incentive works if an employee has performed above and beyond the call of duty. It also requires disclosing such a decision to the rest of the staff and the reason for it.


The more creative the incentive, the more resources it requires. Falling short on your promise of a reward for an exceptional employee will result in losing the trust of your staff. Always reward an employee as much as your business allows, and only step up when your business grows.