Team Building: Making Recognition and Incentive Programs Effective   - The Edge from the National Association of Landscape Professionals

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Team Building: Making Recognition and Incentive Programs Effective  

Photo: Martin Landscape

Recognition and incentive programs can be used to encourage specific behaviors within your team. Using them both can help ensure you motivate different types of employees.

While recognition can push performance with praise, incentives can pull performance with the concept of a prize.

“We are a big supporter of incentive programs because if done correctly, they are win-win for everyone,” says Leigh Townsend, president of J.W. Townsend Landscapes, based in Charlottesville, Virginia. “In the past, we have incentivized efficiency (percentage of billable versus non-billable time) and other production metrics.”  

What To Incentivize

Valerie Lane, HR director for Martin Landscape, based in Port Royal, South Carolina, says when you’re deciding what to incentivize, you’ve got to tie the program directly to what the company’s end goal is.  

At J.W. Townsend, this year they are incentivizing safety and attendance.

Photo: J.W. Townsend Landscapes

“We have a really good safety record, but it can always be improved and by incentivizing safety specifically, we are hoping this track record improves even more,” Townsend says. 

He says with the labor shortage they want to reward the employees who are coming to work every day and hope it will get more individuals to improve their attendance as well. Townsend stresses that incentive programs need to be a win for both the staff and the company.

Dave DiGregorio, VP of sales for Ground Works Land Design, based in Cleveland, Ohio, says sometimes it’s a bit of trial and error to find what to incentivize but it’s always rooted in their mission, vision or values.

One new program they are rolling out is called ‘Own It’ which encourages employees to own things like showing up on time or engaging in critical thinking. These employees are rewarded with gift cards for ‘owning’ various situations.  

“We want to empower people to own their process, own their jobs and own their truck and trailer,” DiGregorio says. “Ultimately we want the same goal. We want everyone to be great. We’re trying to change the philosophy of how we get there instead of, ‘Here’s all the things you have to do to be great because we figured this out. You do this, this and this, and you get to this goal.’ Everybody has different ways of arriving at similar goals.”

Best Practices

Townsend says in the past their previous production incentives helped them improve field efficiency. However, they discontinued those incentives this year as they couldn’t tell if it was still producing the desired result after three years of the program.

Photo: Martin Landscape

We only had a few people hitting the targets each month last year, which let us to believe we need to change things up and/or revise the program,” Townsend says.

Lane says that over the years they have continued to tailor their recognition program to their workforce and culture.

“I think the difference is what sets our company apart is we’re consistent with it,” says Wade Martin, owner of Martin Landscape. “We grade it accurately. Everyone knows the expectations to be able to get a little something extra. It’s not just a handout, you have to earn it. I think everyone understands and knows the expectations.”

Lane stresses that you shouldn’t give too much, too fast and a grading scale should be used to help when it comes to measuring. She says the incentive programs should also be realistic for managers to track over the course of a day or week.

“If it’s too weedy, so to speak, it’s going to prevent managers from actively being engaged with acknowledging the employees or incentivizing employees,” Lane says. “Keep it obtainable. Keep it realistic.”

Martin adds that keeping your grading system accurate helps avoid hurting team members’ feelings and gives you an opportunity to talk to those who aren’t doing well and discuss the root of the matter. He says that whatever program you launch, you need to be consistent with it.

“Stick with it,” Martin says. “If you start a program, don’t start it one month and then forget to do it the next month. Stay on top of it because your people in this field, you may not think they’re paying attention to that, but I got to tell you, they are paying attention to it. If you start it, stick with it. Be consistent.”

Photo: Martin Landscape

DiGregorio encourages being public and transparent when recognizing employees so everyone can have a takeaway from it.

“Doing it publicly in front of everybody is there’s a ton of value,” DiGregorio says. “It’s a morale booster. It makes people feel good about it. It has that group learning experience, and everyone can get better from it.”

Also when it comes to selecting the reward, work to get to know your staff so you can tailor the reward to the individual. At Martin Landscape they give their employees a questionnaire to fill out at orientation so they can personalize their incentives.

“Make sure you’re giving the right gift or the right incentive to the right person,” Martin says. “Think simple and think outside the box. Do things that are different. Just because everybody else is doing it doesn’t mean you have to do it that way.”

Jill Odom

Jill Odom is the senior content manager for NALP.