No doubt, incentives motivate employees. But when structuring your program, you may wonder: short-term or long-term? Which makes more sense?

When designing any type of incentive program, it is crucial to carefully consider the goals and objectives you want to achieve. Short-term incentives are designed to provide immediate gratification and boost motivation in the short run. They can be effective in driving quick results and encouraging specific behaviors.

On the other hand, long-term incentives play a vital role in fostering loyalty and sustained performance. By rewarding consistent effort and dedication over time, they help create a sense of loyalty and motivation for the long haul.

Different situations may call for different types and combinations of incentives. By tailoring the incentive program to the specific needs and desired outcomes, organizations can create a powerful tool that motivates and drives performance effectively.

Join us as we explore incentive projects vs. programs — when + why to use them — and discuss when to integrate one into the other to maximize employee incentives and your return on investment.

What is an incentive project, and what are the benefits?

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An incentive project is a short-term, goal-based project. It has an end date. For example, maybe you present your employees with a project to land three new clients each before the end of the month, and when employees reach this goal, they receive an incentive.

Short-term incentive programs typically span a specific time frame, whether it be a month, a quarter, or a whole year. These programs provide employees with a clear understanding of the specific objectives they need to accomplish within the given period to earn the incentive.

It's important to note that employees don't receive any rewards until they successfully complete the desired task by the end date. Unlike other incentive structures, these programs may not include smaller goals or incremental rewards along the way. 


Benefits of an incentive project.

Short-term incentive projects boast several benefits for your company compared to programs that continue year after year.

  • Attract new talent: If you're looking to fill a niche position in your company or attract top talent, you can run a short-term hiring incentive project that rewards new hires. Even a small incentive could lead top talent to choose your company over others.
  • Boost employee retention: A short-term incentive project can encourage employees to stick it out through those inevitable rough patches everyone has during their careers. Your employees will gain extrinsic motivation to work harder and achieve goals for your company if they feel a stronger sense of fulfillment in their positions. 
  • Focus on specific goals: Incentive projects encourage employee efforts toward one goal, allowing focus and boosting productivity in helping your company reach that goal faster. 

What is an incentive program, and what are the benefits? 

An incentive program is a long-term program with no end date. The purpose of an employee incentive program is to encourage employees to continually meet productivity goals and reward them for doing so, on a ongoing basis.

So, the main difference between an incentive program and a simple project is the time involved. Incentive projects are typically one-and-done, meaning that once the end date is reached, employees can no longer earn additional incentives unless the program is reinstated. On the other hand, incentive programs offer a continuous opportunity for employees to earn incentives as long as they consistently meet the productivity goals outlined in the program.

These employee incentive programs often incorporate tiers, where employees have the chance to earn increasingly significant rewards for consistently achieving their goals over time. By providing continuous incentives, these programs not only motivate employees but also encourage them to maintain a consistent level of productivity throughout their engagement with the program.

Looking for inspiration on incentive programs that could work for your company? Discover these distinctive ideas for incentive programs that cater to different budget ranges! 

Benefits of an incentive program.

In today's competitive landscape, incentive programs have become a powerful tool for organizations to motivate their employees and drive desired outcomes. These programs offer a range of benefits, including:

  • Promote long-term growth: Maximize productivity with incentive programs! By providing rewards and recognition, these programs motivate employees to excel, boosting their performance and contributing to the overall growth of your company. Invest in the power of incentives to create a culture of success and drive outstanding results.
  • Facilitate employee recognition: A long-term incentive program creates opportunities for you to not only recognize and reward employees for achieving their goals but also ensure that their valuable contributions are never overlooked. By fostering a culture of appreciation and celebration, you can motivate your workforce to perform at their best and drive overall success for your company.
  • Boost morale: Boost morale within your organization by implementing a comprehensive long-term incentive program. Employees will appreciate knowing that you're actively monitoring their productivity. This awareness will not only create a sense of accountability but also foster a fulfilling work environment. In addition, by incentivizing them with achievable goals, employees will be motivated to go above and beyond, consistently delivering exceptional results.

Incentive Project, Incentive Programs, Integrate IncentivesIntegrating an incentive project into a program

While incentive projects and programs both offer benefits for your company, a mix of both is wise. Some incentive projects may work better as programs, too. Knowing when and how to integrate a project into a program can help you improve the effectiveness of your overall incentive plan. 

When to integrate projects, programs, and more

Incentive projects are applicable for short-term goals and one-time rewards, such as a holiday bonus or a quarterly sales competition. When those short-term goals start expanding into long-term goals, integrating a relevant project into your program may make sense. 


Let's say you implement an incentive project that allows employees to earn a one-time bonus for landing five new clients. You find that some employees struggle to meet this goal, while others exceed it, securing seven or even 10 clients before the deadline.

By transitioning the project into a long-term incentive program, you can not only offer rewards in intervals but also provide additional opportunities for growth and recognition. This could include tiered incentives for reaching higher client acquisition milestones, ongoing performance bonuses, or even career development pathways based on consistently exceeding targets.

Such a long-term incentive program ensures that employees are continuously motivated, rewarded, and acknowledged for their exceptional efforts in driving client acquisition. 

Rewarding the higher-performing employees with better incentives makes sense

Are your employees having a hard time achieving an ambitious incentive-based project with a goal? Are you noticing goal fatigue, in which employees deem the goal too challenging and give up, not considering the incentive worthwhile? Turning the incentive program into a series of projects that require smaller intervals or milestones can reduce this fatigue and motivate employees to keep up. 

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How to integrate rewards and incentives software

Once you've decided to integrate an incentive project into a program, you'll need to answer these questions:

  • What aspects of the incentive project do you want to keep? 
  • What do you want to add to the incentive project to turn it into a long-term program?
  • Think about interval goals, increasingly bigger incentives, and so on.

Use an incentive project as your base, remove the deadline, and add elements to turn it into a long-term program. Then, clearly define the rules and criteria for the program so that employees know exactly what they need to do to earn the incentives.

The criteria should include the following:

  • How do you track employees' progress toward the goals
  • How people receive your incentives
  • Any limitations to the program they need to know about
  • What people would like as incentives

Incentive program ideas to boost productivity & engagement

Long-term incentive programs can help employees feel valued, increase their productivity, and foster a sense of loyalty to your company. 

Below are a few specific ideas for incentive programs you can implement in your workplace:

1. Milestone program

To show appreciation for employees who reach sales milestones, consider implementing a reward system that not only recognizes their achievements but also motivates them to continuously excel. One possible approach could be to offer a $5 gift card for every new lead they successfully land. Alternatively, you could consider granting them an extra day off for every 50 sales they close. Providing these incentives not only acknowledges their hard work but also encourages them to strive for more, ensuring the continued success of your team.

2. Holiday bonus

In order to show your heartfelt appreciation for every employee and to encourage a healthy work-life balance during the holidays, consider giving each individual a generous monetary bonus. By doing so, you not only acknowledge their hard work and dedication but also provide them with the means to enjoy and cherish this special time of year.

3. Friendly competition

Invite employees to participate in friendly competition within their respective teams. Recognize and reward the highest performers each month or quarter, motivating them to strive for excellence and fostering a sense of camaraderie and healthy competition among colleagues.

4. Onboarding programs

To attract and retain top talent, it is highly recommended to implement a well-designed long-term hiring incentive program. This program would offer a generous bonus to new employees upon successful completion of a comprehensive and thorough six-week onboarding process. Not only would this incentive serve as a motivational factor for potential candidates, but it would also support the engagement and commitment of new hires right from the beginning, fostering a positive and rewarding work environment.

5. Referral programs

Reward and recognize your employees for their valuable contribution to bringing top talent to your company. Show your appreciation by providing incentives when you hire someone who has been referred by an employee. This not only encourages a thriving referral program but also fosters a positive and collaborative work environment. Together,  with your employees, you can build a team of exceptional individuals who drive the success and growth of our company.

As many as 35% of employees say they want more recognition in their jobs. A long-term incentive program is a great way to meet this demand. And, as many as 65% of employees prefer incentives to be based on personal performance rather than team performance, so keep that in mind when structuring your objectives.