NEW RESEARCH from the Society for Human Resource Management ( has found that a mix of nonmonetary and monetary awards is most effective at improving employee morale. For top performers, more than half of the 459 responding human resources professionals said money was a strong motivator. For “sandwich generation,” employees — those caring for children and aging parents — benefits such as flexible scheduling and telecommuting were most appealing.

The study concluded that while monetary rewards are perceived as having a larger impact, nonmonetary rewards are also useful. However, while the majority of respondents said that incentives are effective at boosting morale overall, they agreed overwhelmingly that incentives are not effective at motivating under-performing employees to improve.

A growing area of interest explored in the study was that of personal services incentives, everything from mentoring programs to legal services. Some of the most common incentives in this category benefited both employees and companies, such as professional development opportunities, used by 93 percent of respondents, and memberships in industry associations, used by 92 percent. The least common were outright perks, such as concierge service and dry cleaning services.

The survey found that short-term incentives, such as cash and spot bonuses, are most common for nonmanagerial employees, while managers are most likely to be rewarded for reaching long-term goals.

How often should companies review their incentives? Forty-four percent of HR professionals said they review rewards programs once a year.


Top 5 Personal Services Benefits

  • Professional development opportunities (seminars, courses)
  • Professional memberships
  • Casual dress day (one day/week)
  • Casual dress every day
  • Organization-sponsored sports teams