New IRF Study: Employee Points Programs are a Powerful Motivation Tool

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The Incentive Research Foundation’s new study, The Psychology of Points, reports that points reward programs are memorable and effective at motivating employees. The study explores how participating in points programs increases employee engagement, intrinsic motivation, and identification with the organization.

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Points can have such an enduring emotional impact on your workforce. There’s gratitude when points are awarded, anticipation as employees plan for and select their reward, and finally the excitement of redeeming points for the reward.

The Incentive Research Foundation’s new study, The Psychology of Points, reports that points reward programs are memorable and effective at motivating employees. The study explores how participating in points programs increases employee engagement, intrinsic motivation, and identification with the organization. The Psychology of Points also provides practical guidance on how to design and implement a successful points program.

“The Psychology of Points helps build a strong case for including points rewards in a broader incentive and reward program,” said Stephanie Harris, IRF President. “Points can have such an enduring emotional impact on your workforce. There’s gratitude when points are awarded, anticipation as employees plan for and select their reward, and finally the excitement of redeeming points for the reward.”

The IRF conducted an online survey of 1,018 workers, complementing the survey data with aggregate redemption data from several points platform providers. The research also included interviews with ten experts who design and measure employee points rewards programs for hundreds of customers. A thorough review of existing academic research and articles on the topic was also conducted.

Key findings and insights in The Psychology of Points include:

  • Survey respondents indicated a greater preference for working for an organization with a points reward program.
  • The top reasons employees can earn point rewards are individual performance (70%), period of service (46%), group performance (46%), and peer recognition (40%).
  • Points rewards participants care more about the recognition, appreciation, and belonging associated with receiving points rewards than what the what the points are redeemed for.
  • Participants plan for their reward significantly more than cash or gift card recipients, resulting in greater satisfaction with the reward.
  • Points reward earners are more likely than cash recipients to talk about the rewards they receive.
  • Points reward programs often reach close to 100% of the workforce, making them more effective at motivating performance across a much larger group.
  • 79% of survey respondents prefer to save their redeemable points to exchange for large-dollar item(s).

The IRF also released the supplemental report How to Run an Effective Points Program: 30+ Tips from the Experts. This report includes additional best practices collected from incentives experts during the interview and research process for The Psychology of Points.

To download the full study and supplemental report, visit the IRF’s The Psychology of Points webpage.

The release of The Psychology of Points was supported by Research Advocacy Partner HALO.

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