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Brilliant insight, Ann. Too true. Too often, I think people believe an incentive or recognition program is a "soft" initiative -- just throw it out there. Make it "nice." Don't worry about it too much (are we incenting the wrong things, maybe?). Don't set parameters for managers, including MBOs. It'll all work out.

Even in our strategic programs, tweaks and improvements always need to be made over time. A marathoner doesn't run at the same pace at the beginning of the race as they do in the middle or close to the finish line. The same is true with recognition programs. People change. Companies change. Objectives change. You need the ability to flex with that.


Great points - lack of discipline and lack of follow-through have done in many reward programs before they had a chance to succeed.

Thanks for the comments!

People get bored with the same old incentive, and many start to think that top performers are "gaming" the system. So it may be good to switch it up regularly.

Video games have different "levels" that keep players hooked. If they all had the same strategy, maps and designs, eventually the player would switch it off and do something else.


Thanks - interesting comment and observation. I don't know that I'm a fan of switching it up just for variety's sake - I think it's more important to get the plan well-aligned with strategic priorities and then continue adjusting as those priorities shift. The cash reward - the opportunity to share in the gain that is created by helping execute strategy successfully - will hopefully hook them.

I'd be interested to hear others' point of view around the need for variety - for variety's sake - in incentive plan design.

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About The Author

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    Compensation consultant Ann Bares is the Managing Partner of Altura Consulting Group. Ann has more than 20 years of experience consulting with organizations in the areas of compensation and performance management.

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