As we discussed earlier, there are several types of incentive pay systems that can be tied directly to business objectives and the employees’ ability to help the company meet those objectives. They include commissions, bonuses, profit sharing, stock options, team pay, and merit pay.
Commissions are usually calculated on the basis of a percentage and earned based on the achievement of specific targets that have been agreed upon by the employee and employer. For example, many salespeople receive commissions from each item sold. Many commission incentive plans require employees to meet a minimum level of sales, who then are paid a comission on each sale beyond the minimum. A straight commission plan is one in which the employee receives no base pay and entire pay is based on meeting sales goals. Many plans, however, include a base payand commission for each sale. Base pay is the guaranteed salary the employee earns.
Several types of bonuses can be given to employees as incentive pay. Meeting certain company goals or successfully completing a project or other objectives can be tied to a bonus, which is a one-time payment to an employee. A spot bonus is an unplanned bonus given to an employee for meeting a certain objective. These types of bonuses do not always have to be money; they can be other forms such as a gift certificate or trip. Fifty-eight percent of World at Work members 1 said that they provide spot bonuses to employees for special recognition above and beyond work performance.
Some organizations choose to reward employees financially when the organization as a whole performs well, through the use of profit sharing as an incentive. For example, if an organization has a profit-sharing program of 2 percent for employees, the employees would earn 2 percent of the overall profit of the company. As you have guessed, this can be an excellent incentive for employees to both work as a team and also monitor their own personal performance so as not to let down the team. For example, in 2011, US automaker General Motors gave one of its highest profit-sharing payouts ever. Forty-five thousand employees received $189 million in a profit-sharing bonus, which equaled about $4,200 per person. 2 While profit sharing can be a great incentive, it can also be a large expense that should be carefully considered.
Employee ownership of the organization is similar to profit sharing but with a few key differences. In this type of plan, employees are granted stock options, which allow the employees to buy stock at a fixed price. Then if the stock goes up in value, the employee earns the difference between what he or she paid and the value of the stock. With this type of incentive, employees are encouraged to act in the best interest of the organization. Some plans, called employee stock ownership plans, are different from stock options, in that in these plans the employee is given stock as reward for performance.
In a smaller organization, team pay or group incentives can be popular. In this type of plan, if the group meets a specified goal, such as the increase of sales by 10 percent, the entire group receives a reward, which can consist of additional pay or bonus. Please note that this is different from individualized bonuses, discussed earlier, since the incentive is a reward for the group as opposed for the individual.
Merit pay is a pay program that links pay to how well the employee performs within the job, and it is normally tied to performance appraisals. Performance appraisals are discussed further in Chapter 10 "Managing Employee Performance". Merit base is normally an annual pay increase tied to performance. The problem with merit pay is that it may only be received once per year, limiting incentive flexibility. To make merit pay work, performance guidelines should be predetermined. Some organizations offer cost of living annual increases (COLAs), which is not tied to merit but is given to employees as an annual inflationary increase.
Fortune 500 Focus
While the cost of health insurance premiums may be going up for most Americans, these premiums do not hit the individual employee’s pocketbook at Microsoft. Microsoft, based in Redmond, Washington, finds itself once again on the Fortune500 Best Companies to Work For list in several areas, including paying for 100 percent of employees’ health-care premiums. 3 In addition to cutting this cost for employees, Microsoft also offers domestic partner benefits, one of the first Fortune500 companies to do so. In 2005, Microsoft also began to offer partial coverage for transgender surgery to its existing health-care coverage, which earned Microsoft the highest attainable score by the Human Rights Campaign (HRC) Equality Index. 4 Microsoft also promotes fitness and wellness as part of its health-care plan, providing an on-site fitness center and subsidized gym memberships.