How to motivate — and delight — employees with rewards
In an age of quiet quitting, creative incentives can radically increase employee engagement and productivity.
| 5:00 a.m. February 9, 2023
Oh, great, another pizza party to celebrate a business milestone or accomplishment. Yay.
Workers are disengaged from their jobs across most, if not all, sectors of the economy, leading to the coining of a new term, “quiet quitting,” to describe the state of malaise that leads employees to do the bare minimum required of them.
How do you kickstart productivity in ways that will incentivize employees to do their best and motivate them to sustain that level of engagement over the long term? William Stonehouse III, the co-founder and president of Crawford Thomas Recruiting, a full-service staffing agency with offices in Atlanta, Orlando and Tampa, says surprise and delight, not to mention fun and fond memories, are critical components of effective employee rewards.
“If you give people cash,” he says, “that money disappears very quickly — it evaporates into their bank account and isn’t differentiated.”
Stonehouse’s company, which he founded in 2007, employs about 50 people, 90% of whom are in sales or other revenue-generating positions, some of which are commissioned-based. Because the firm’s profits are so tied to the performance of individual staff members, it rewards the top 50% with a lavish, adults-only, weeklong vacation, usually in April or May, to an all-inclusive resort in a Caribbean destination such as Mexico or Jamaica.
The location changes every year and sometimes takes the form of a cruise. This year, for example, Crawford Thomas Recruiting’s top performers will get to enjoy a week at sea on a Virgin Voyages ship, part of Sir Richard Branson’s Virgin Group of companies.
“It’s an upscale, super-modern type of cruise,” Stonehouse says. “We try to change it up to keep people happy, excited and interested. We try to bring as much of the management team as we can because it’s important to reward them and give them exposure to their top people.”
The trips usually reward about 25 staff members, and the honorees can bring their spouse, significant other or another guest, so sometimes more than 40 people are able to enjoy the experience. That means the excursions are quite costly, and sometimes Crawford Thomas Recruiting clients aren’t thrilled the office essentially goes dark for a week. But Stonehouse believes the dividends greatly outweigh the expense and inconvenience.
“We are taking a risk by taking most of the company offline,” he says. “But any chance you get to showcase the actual people who work within your business, that can add credibility to the organization — you just have to be aware of how to present it publicly and to your clients.”
That means urging employees to be thoughtful about what they post on social media about their company-sponsored vacation. “Hopefully it’s G-rated,” Stonehouse says.
A secondary benefit of the reward trips is how they make Crawford Thomas Recruiting extremely appealing to potential new hires.
But in terms of existing employees’ productivity, the results speak for themselves: Stonehouse declines to disclose the firm’s specific revenues, but he says sales increased 30% year-over-year from 2021 to 2022. “We’ve always had steady growth every year we’ve been in business,” he adds. “We were on the Inc. 5000 five years in a row at one point. Last year, specifically, was a great year.”