10 Steps To A Successful Incentive System


By Todd A. Ward, PhD, BCBA-D

Founding Editor, bSci21.org

Wherever you work — in the Fortune 500, at a school district, or as a reclusive author — performance is crucial to success.  Aubrey Daniels, PhD, founder of the renowned consulting firm Aubrey Daniels International, recently outlined ten “commandments” of performance improvement, summarized below.

1) Don’t design your own incentive plan.  Having others design the plan, with some input from employees, will ensure the measures are based on meaningful results aligned with the company’s goals.

2) Provide lots of feedback.  The more feedback you can provide your employees on how their performance is meeting the goals outlined in the incentive system, the more likely you will see results.  Aubrey recommends monthly feedback at a bare minimum.

3) Don’t let practical constraints govern your initial choice of performance measures.  Instead, shoot for the stars — in the “perfect” company, think about the ideal measures that align with the mission, then work backwards only as much as needed to obtain the data in a practical way.

4) Develop real-world measures.  In other words, ensure the measures are the most important for meaningful gains in the company.

5) Target the smallest groups possible.  The smaller the group, the closer one gets to individual performance.  Larger groups introduce anonymity.

6) Measure things your employees can meaningfully affect.  Aubrey recommends against company-wide measures disconnected from individuals’ performance.

7) Don’t be a one note.  In other words, have measures that are quantitative, qualitative, short- and long-term.

8) Encourage cooperation.  Measures can target the output of interrelated jobs, and motivate everyone involved in the work process.

9) Employees aren’t entitled to goal achievement.  While everyone should have comparable opportunities to meet their goals, it might not be practical all of the time, and comparable goal attainment is not guaranteed.

10) Adjust as necessary.  After designing an incentive system, pilot the plan initially to fine-tune the design.  After rolling out to the full company, things will likely crop up in the natural course of doing business that will require ongoing adjustments.

Be sure to check out the full article for more details and let us know your experiences implementing incentive systems in your workplace!  Also, don’t forget to subscribe to bSci21 via email to receive the latest articles directly to your inbox.


Todd A. Ward, PhD, BCBA-D is President of bSci21 Media, LLC, which owns bSci21.org and BAQuarterly.com.  Todd serves as an Associate Editor of the Journal of Organizational Behavior Management and as an editorial board member for Behavior and Social Issues.  He has worked as a behavior analyst in day centers, residential providers, homes, and schools, and served as the director of Behavior Analysis Online at the University of North Texas.  Todd’s areas of expertise include writing, entrepreneurship, Acceptance & Commitment Therapy, Instructional Design, Organizational Behavior Management, and ABA therapy. Todd can be reached at [email protected].

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