The individual incentive, whether monetary or non-monetary, seems logical. It fits best with sales people, who are the most familiar examples when we think of employee incentives. What kind of people would work harder for a group incentive?
Actually, there are a number of positions in a company that attract folks who might prefer group incentives. Customer Service representatives, technical support, back-room analysts, production teams, pick-pack teams. In fact, the terms “support” or “team” in any job description should give you a hint. People who work in groups, or whose jobs revolve around helping others to be successful.
Group incentives can be monetary, like $100 for each member of the team. More frequently, however, the non-monetary rewards work better. You particularly want to consider non-monetary incentives that let the team celebrate together. A pizza party or company jackets recognize the whole team.
Finally, there is one critical point to emphasize in any incentive program. Nothing motivates forever. Every bonus scheme has a lifetime. Any plan should be introduced with the caveat “This inventive is intended to motivate specific behavior and results. Management reserves the right to modify or cancel it at any time.”
Change incentive plans regularly. Swap a long-term individual monetary plan for a short-term non-monetary team goal just to loosen things up. Give team members the ability to excel individually from time to time. One incentive can be a contest, with only a single winner, or first, second and third place but no rewards for fourth on down. Top three performers, top two performers, qualify to be in the group with a drawing for the best prize, or multiple entries in a drawing scaled to your performance. Spend some time thinking of how many ways you can vary rewards, and save them for future use.
All incentive plans go stale. Employees learn to game them. Worst of all, too many managers allow an incentive to remain in place long after the goals are being exceeded with ease, and the bonus has slipped into an entitlement.
When you finally come up with a program that works, avoid the temptation to dust off your hands an walk away. It just means you’ve bought some time until the next incentive plan is due.