How to Improve Workplace Culture with Incentives

by | Jan 3, 2020 | Blog

It’s that time of year again. No, not the holidays. I’m talking about the Incentive Research Foundation’s quarterly report! This time, the report talks about how to improve workplace culture and what effect incentives can have on culture and motivation.

The idea that incentives can have an effect on company culture is relatively new, at least in practice. We’ve talked about this a little bit recently. The concept stems, of course, through motivation and behavior modification. How do we not only motivate people to do the things we want them to do but also to see us the way we want to be seen?

Let’s take a look at the IRF’s report for some answers on how to improve workplace culture with incentives.

The Good Old Cash vs. Non-Cash Debate

When it comes to recognizing our employees and salespeople, do financial motivators work over more tangible rewards? Research says… well, both. We talked about this at length, and while HMI is a firm believer in non-cash rewards and their benefits, it really depends on who your audience is.

This particular study found that both were effective when it came to motivation, though cash increased performance 8.7% while recognition for a job well done in front of the group increased performance 18.2%.

A lot of research before initiating an incentive program is vital for understanding what will work best for how to improve your workplace culture for your target audience.


Want a deep dive into sales incentives and how you can make them achieve your goals? Check out our ebook, Sales Incentives: How, Why, and ROI


How to Increase Workplace Culture with Knowledge Sharing

Imparting knowledge onto new employees and salespeople is a vital part of onboarding. However, this study puts forward that passing along knowledge to others can be perceived as potentially detrimental. The idea being that by passing off knowledge to others, we then devalue ourselves as assets to the company and in our positions.

How do we reconcile these two differences? Well, this is a perfect opportunity for small incentives. The study found that people were significantly more likely to help spread knowledge when a reward was offered.

Interestingly, employees believed that while sharing knowledge that a stronger bond of trust is created with the employer. So, creating an environment for rewarding the sharing of knowledge and, thus, the building of skills can lead to better brand affinity and a healthier place to work.

Become a Bastion for Creativity

Creativity is an ambiguous yet extremely valuable asset for many teams, departments, and organizations alike. For anyone trying to innovate and differentiate themselves, it’s essential. Creativity is easily stifled, though.

I mean, they took away our doughnuts. How am I supposed to come up with article ideas without my doughnuts?!

In all seriousness, this study tested how tangible rewards like cash bonuses compared to intangible rewards like praise. Interestingly, the researchers found that tangible rewards actually decreased creativity while intangible rewards increased it.

Parting words from the researchers did point out that other organizations have found a positive impact from tangible rewards and that it’s important to pay attention to culture while planning how to improve your workplace culture with strategic rewards.


Recognition is a tricky thing. People are different, and everyone is motivated or made comfortable in their working environment with different things. That’s why it’s imperative to either do research or survey your target audience. Find out what they like and make sure they get a healthy serving of it.

There’s always a beam to balance, though. You wouldn’t want to give cash to one person and a “good job” to another for the same work. That would be disastrous. Instead, come up with a structured plan that offers both for different situations and personalize your rewards as much as you can.

Anyway, there are a few interesting findings from the IRF’s quarterly report that we didn’t cover. If you want to know more about how to improve your workplace culture, read more here!


Customer Retention: B2B Customer Loyalty and the Share of Why eBook Cover

Subscribe to Email!

Need more incentive insights? Check out these related articles.

Load More

Start the Conversation Now

Ready to start planning your incentive strategy? Get in contact with us!