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Eight ideas for using rewards to motivate staff

New technology – it’s making it easier and easier for your business to reduce its resource use and boost profits. Smart lighting can help your business make massive energy savings. Ditto for new, high-efficiency heating systems. Modern equipment in your workplace’s toilets and canteens can do the same for your water use.

But new technology requires investment. And, while the Scottish Government provides small and medium businesses with interest-free, unsecured loans to buy energy efficiency equipment, investing in new technology can still be hard for some businesses – at least in the short term. If you operate out of leased premises you’ll know what we mean – it can sometimes seem like there’s a mountain to climb to agree improvements with your landlord. Likewise, if your board has a host of other pressing issues to get through first – isn’t there always a bigger, hotter fire to put out somewhere else?

The good news is that there are plenty of technology-free and no-cost ways you can start to make savings right now.

Switching off lights when not needed, using heating controls sensibly, reporting water leaks as they happen, recycling better, and so on – none of these require investment. And, guess what? Once you show management the savings, you’ll probably find your bigger projects get pushed up the agenda faster than you can say ‘Where’s my bonus?’

Slap bang in the centre of most of these no-cost opportunities are your colleagues. Or, more specifically, their behaviours and getting them to adopt more resource efficient ways of doing things.

In our experience, most inefficient behaviours can be overcome with good communications and direction. That’s why we’ve developed lots of free resources in our staff engagement toolkit that can help you do just that – from induction training, to setting up a green team, to running specific campaigns.

But a little extra motivation never hurt.

So, in this blog you’ll find eight of the best ideas that businesses have used to reward staff for being resource efficient – boosting staff motivation to a new level.


Idea one – sweet success

Place sweets, chocolates or a green flag on PC monitors and other equipment that are switched off at the end of the day. For those that are left on, a sticker or red flag could serve as a gentle, but highly visible, reminder to switch off next time. For this to work, the equipment needs to be used by the same person each day, so it’s not appropriate if your staff hot-desk.


Idea two – leagues ahead on energy

Establish a league table based on the energy used by different departments, buildings or teams that have their own energy meters.

It’s important to make this one as fair as possible – for example, by ensuring that energy use across buildings is equally within the control of occupants (rather than one building being influenced by poor insulation, for example) and by measuring energy consumption per occupant so that fluctuations in occupant numbers does not affect results.


Idea three – leagues ahead on waste

Like above, but this league table is based on a reduction in waste generated or a proportion of waste recycled between different departments, buildings or teams. Here you can provide each ‘team’ with its own bins, track the amount of waste being collected and stand back while your recycling rate rockets.

If you have access to printer-use data, you can run a similar league table on paper use and printing. It will not only bring into focus how much paper is being used but celebrates its reduction.


Idea four – competitive streak

Run competitions which award a prize.

This could be a prize to recognise an individual’s effort or you could link it to your league tables and award a team prize. You can get creative with this one to get people thinking about resource efficiency more often as they go about their day. For example, why not offer a prize for the photo that best communicates good resource efficiency practice at work? Alternatively, could you link a prize to an annual suggestion scheme and reward the person who spots the best resource efficiency opportunity in your organisation. The law firm Shoosmiths LLP encourages staff to adopt green behaviours and reduce energy consumption. Their case study shares how resource efficiency is part of their culture.


Idea five – recognise good behaviour

Run an award scheme that recognises employees or teams who have made an effort to adopt new resource efficiency behaviours. This could be monthly or yearly.

There are also many opportunities to recognise good performance by entering external awards such as the Scottish Resources Awards or  VIBES awards.


Idea six – money talks

Do you have a canteen? Why not offer a discount on coffee of say, 20p, for staff or customers who bring in their own mug rather than using a single-use cup?  And in the effort to reduce waste, particularly plastic waste, what about providing a discount for people who bring in their own re-usable food containers?

Check out this video on the BBC to see how a simple change in the way hot drinks are priced at one university has made a big difference to the number of cups that are thrown away.


Idea seven – hit the target

Establish a company, building or team target (on energy, water or recycling) and give a reward when this target is reached. For example, a donation to a charity chosen by staff, a group night out or even half a day of annual leave.

To keep colleagues updated on progress towards this target and to maintain levels of motivation, you can use a thermometer-style progress chart displayed in a prominent area of your workplace and other communications channels such as team briefings.


Idea eight – align rewards with performance appraisals

A final, more formal reward here – linking your resource efficiency goals with staff performance appraisals. Depending on your organisation’s appraisal system, an individual’s resource efficiency performance could contribute to decisions around pay rises, bonuses or promotions.


Good luck trying these ideas in your workplace. You might like to trial them in selected buildings or teams first, before rolling them out across your business as a whole – and do let us know which idea works best for you.