by Paul Kirchoff | June 02, 2017
Employee performance is everything. When a workforce is highly motivated and productive, a company hums like a well-tuned engine accomplishing goal after goal after goal. So when a management team wants to encourage maximum productivity, they turn to incentives.

The best incentives, by definition, are something an employee values and believes they have a reasonable probability of receiving, based on taking actions to accomplish a goal.

What many CEOs fail to understand, however, is that what an employee values is not only unique to that individual, but has changed over time as well.

In the 60s and 70s, employees valued career paths, career longevity, and the ability to build a pension. In the 80s, it was salary and bonuses. In the 90s, employees jumped from tech unicorn to tech unicorn trading salary for equity wherever they could. In the 2000s, that continued, but to retain the best talent, management teams at top companies invested in culture -- on-site spas, gym memberships, campus cafeterias with free food. Those investments became a requirement to be in the game. And now? With the rise of the Millennials, it is meaningful work and experiences. 

There are many incentives that cost very little. Recognition, for example, is something every employee wants and many companies de-prioritize. When an employee achieves something, celebrate it. An extra day off or a floating holiday -- again, something to be earned but of little cost to the company already paying for the employee. 

Workers today want a good salary, incentives, culture, and a bonus, but they also want balance. They want to experience life. I've seen that first hand through my company, EPX Worldwide, a community of entrepreneurs who come together for amazing experiences from trekking the Sahara to climbing Mount Everest (pictured above). Our members are motivated by their work but also look for experiences and challenges beyond it. But one person's value on experience is different than another's, so how can a management team deliver on what employees now value?

Simple: ask. 

Ask each employee what they value most. Personalize the goals, measurement, and the incentive. Give them the experience that matters most to them. Spreading the same incentive across your employees is a thing of the past. But the base together works competitively and you should differentiate by providing the exact incentive that each employee wants. 

A decent salary is not enough. A pool table in the common area is not enough. These are assumed by each employee. Companies need to think of employees as customers and work to provide incentives that employees value but that also create positive memories or experiences. Give them an experience they uniquely have dreamt of because if achieved, that memory will remind them of their achievement and push to them to the next over and over again. 


Paul Kirchoff is the founder and CEO of EPX Worldwide, an exclusive community of adventuring entrepreneurs driving faster business success and maxing out the planet's most amazing experiences. Members include billionaires to F-16 pilots, members of the House of Lords to the youngest person to summit the world's seven mountain peaks.