Performance Incentives: Going For Gold

Maybe I’m the only one, but I was surprised when I heard Olympic athletes get performance bonuses for bringing home medals. In Canada our medal winners can expect $20K for gold, $15K for silver and $10K for bronze. It’s a practice we started in 2008 and the bill, as of the 2010 Vancouver Olympics, is roughly $2.3M. It’s great to see that we’re supporting our athletes, but it did raise a few questions.

Like, what does a gold medal taste like?

Is a bonus really necessary? Shouldn’t the gold medal and sense of accomplishment be enough? Is a few thousand dollars really going to make the difference between going for gold and settling for silver?

It didn’t take long to realize that these are the same questions employers ask when considering employee performance incentives. Great sales professionals typically have lucrative compensation plans that ensure they’re rewarded for their success, so why bother with a pat on the back and a trip to Jamaica if they exceed quota?

In sales terms qualifying for the Olympics would be like hitting your target, while landing a gold medal is like pulling down 200% of quota. Nobody, whether they’re a software sales executive or an Olympic decathlete, is going to hit target without skill and passion. The bonus is a way of showing them that your appreciation of them goes beyond contractually mandated levels, much like their contribution did.

Your sales force might shoot for these goals beforehand, just like Olympic athletes probably look forward to the $20K at the top of the podium, but the real value comes from validating the commitment they made to your organization. Appreciation builds loyalty and your top performers are the last ones you want to feel under-appreciated.

You can also make the effort to keep your incentives fresh, so there’s always excitement about earning them. If you’re offering a trip to Vegas every year it diminishes the authenticity of the gesture. You can also experiment with smaller, more immediate rewards rather than taking the annual approach.

You don’t need to hand out medals to recognize excellence, but don’t wait four years to put your top performers on a podium.

To stay in touch with Martyn Bassett Associates and get notifications about everything from job postings to new blog entries, follow us on Twitter or connect with us on LinkedIN

Views: 208

Comment by Ted Fitter on August 15, 2012 at 10:57am


A couple of thoughts on your posting:

- Rewarding the athletes for success in conjunction with potential endorsements may be the best way for them to recoup some of the personal and family investment in their 4 year quest.

- Regarding corporate performance improvement programs, you're scratching the surface of the more than 100 year old, multi-billion dollar incentive industry and the variety of strategies that keep performance improvement programs fresh. Take a look at the Incentive Marketing Association website [] for a deep dive. I've been in the industry for 25 years and would be happy to share my experience with anyone who would like to learn more about it.


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