Employee Accountability & Incentives

June 1, 2010
Developing an effective incentives program for your business

About the author: Kelly R. Thompson, CWS VI, is president of Moti-Vitality, LLC. Thompson can be reached at 810.560.2788 or by e-mail at [email protected].


Perhaps one of the greatest challenges to many business owners and managers in the water industry is in finding ways to juggle the many hats they are forced to wear without neglecting the very people they rely on for their businesses to thrive or in some cases, merely survive.

Many dealers do not have the resources to hire and maintain a full-time sales, office or service manager. This role often falls on their own shoulders, which can at times lead to dissatisfied employees and customers and service that is not at the level it could or should be.  

There are some steps a manager or owner can take to increase employee accountability and morale. In so doing, the company will become more profitable and customers will be more satisfied.

Before doing anything, however, an owner or manager must make a commitment. Employees will typically be only half as committed as the owner or manager. Deciding to incentivize a team sounds like a great idea but the best incentive programs are going to be based on quantifiable results.

If developing an incentive program, look for something you are already tracking to reward. Be sure that you realistically have the time or resources to track something new. For example, if you want to have a contest and provide a reward for high closing ratios, you have to make sure that an accurate count of leads versus contracts is calculated. This requires monitoring and documenting. Who does the responsibility for doing this fall upon?  

I hear a lot of owners and managers come back from a recent sales or management conference, and they swirl through the office like a tornado with grand ideas of changes that will make the company dramatically better almost immediately. The best intentions or the biggest dreams, however, can sometimes lose their motivating ability once the reality of the business comes back front and center.

This is why I suggest making a list of new ideas received from these seminars or training materials. When you get back to the realities of work, sit down and prioritize these ideas. Pick one or possibly two ideas to focus on. Put the rest in a place where they will not be forgotten but that is also not a distraction from completing the first.

Once your commitment is made and plan of action developed, you need to get your team on board. If they are motivated about the changes you want to make or the goals you have set, holding them accountable will be much easier.

One of the best ways to get them motivated is to involve them in the process. Empowerment is often a far greater incentive than an extra $50 here or there. Employees want to feel like they are part of something.  

Instead of demanding that someone do something, try asking for their help to figure out how it may get done. It is amazing how the administrative
assistant will sometimes resist when told to do something extra but when the same person is asked to help figure out how the task can be done, he or she will often volunteer willingly.

When an owner or manager is using incentives as a motivator, it helps to have a couple of keys in place.

Start With Good People

Every organization has a certain amount of toxicity in it, but too much can be disastrous to any attempts to build an accountability and incentive plan that works. Eliminate the toxic individuals from your work force. They are costing you money and a good team.

Have Well-Defined Rules

It is difficult to hold anyone accountable if they do not have a clear understanding of what is expected of them. Rules need to be clear, well-defined and written down. They should apply equally to every member of the team in every department regardless of a person’s tenure or relationship to management.

Build a Team Atmosphere

Instead of having separate departments like sales, service or administration, have one department with differing responsibilities. Encourage each team member to work toward common goals.

Stay Connected

Make sure that as a manager or owner you listen to your staff. Let them evaluate you and each other. Be willing to do each of your team’s jobs as hard as they do.  

Understand What Motivates Different Types of People

Different people do different jobs because they are motivated by different things. Fiscal rewards and incentives are good, but a manager or owner may find that understanding the psychology of each type of person may allow them to provide incentives far more powerful than money.

For example, salespeople want recognition. They want to be the best. But they don’t always want to be recognized only when they win a contest. A random “thank you” for a consistent performer who just had a bad month can go a lot farther than an extra $50 when they had a good month.

Also, don’t forget the spouse. Without his or her support, the late nights and odd hours a salesperson works will not happen. Thanking a spouse will often motivate a salesperson beyond belief. Sit with each of your different teams and find out what they like to do. What interests them? Use their own desires to motivate them.

How Can You Serve Your Team?

A sales manager should never refer to salespeople as “the people who work for me.” It should be the opposite. He or she should say “the salespeople I work for.” If this attitude is truly held and an owner or manager works very hard to make sure that subordinates are successful, loyalty will continually grow stronger.

We should avoid the mistake of simply trying to throw money at our groups in hopes that they will suddenly be vitally motivated. Stopping to evaluate your team and each personality and what motivates each individual will yield far greater results and an owner or manager will find that it often costs far less, as well.

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