How to Use an Incentive Plan to Motivate Your Staff

At the end of last year I decided that I needed a way to get my pet sitting staff to feel more involved and connected to the business. I wanted them to feel that they would be rewarded for good work and their income would be determined by how committed they were to helping me to grow the business.

So, I set up my first pet sitting contractor incentive plan. It is now part of the package that I give to prospective pet sitters at their intial job interview. So far I have found that everyone I have interviewed has been receptive to the idea, and love that they have control over how much work they get and how they are compensated.

Let me explain how I put together the plan.

When I was working out what to put in the plan I really thought about what I wanted from my pet sitting contractors. I decided that the things that are important to me are:

1) Pet sitter retention - once I find a great sitter I want them to stick around. They know the routine, I am comfortable working with me, and we have built up trust. It is a lot of work to continually seek new staff and then build a good working relationship.

2) Pet sitter availability during our busiest holiday seasons. I want my sitters to make themselves available to work on major holidays as this is when we really need them.

3) Ability to care for pets during an emergency. I want my sitters to have some basic first aid knowledge so that if an animal is injured during their visit that they could give first aid until they can take them to a veterinarian.

4) Willingness of pet sitter to help find new clients. I want my sitters to actively promote the business in their local area.

As I work with independent contractors I am not allowed to provide training to them and pay them a flat percentage of whatever the customer is charged for the visits that they make. I also give them any tips left by the customers.

Based on the 4 important characteristics I then put together my incentive plan so that it rewards my sitters for the behaviors that I want them to give me.

The 4 modules are:

1) A pay scale that is based on length of service. When a sitter starts they are payed X % of the client charges. After 1 year with us they then get a 5% increase (ie X + 5 %). After 2 years they get another 5% increase in pay ( X + 10 %). I make the start date for each sitter their first visit or the first time that I issue them a check.

2) A skills incentive that rewards them for taking a pet specific first aid course. I offer to increase their pay percentage by 5% upon completion of the course which will be active as long as their certificate is current.

3) A holiday bonus. I pay sitters an additional $5 per visit for working on major holidays. I pass this $5 per visit increase on to the customer.

4) A marketing incentive. If sitters will distribute flyers or postcards advertising the business then when I get clients that call and tell me that they were referred by a specific sitter, then the sitter will be guaranteed that job, and also receive an increased percentage payment for the first week of visits that the customer books with us. I have designed flyers and postcards that give our clients an incentive to tell us who they were referred by just to make sure sitters get credit.

Make sure you call back in to read my next blog post as I will be showing you a picture of my postcard and you’ll see how this works.

You could use this same incentive method to encourage any other staff behavior that is desirable.

Here is an action plan that you can use to set up your incentive plan:

a) Write down the behaviors that you want to encourage

b) Work out what your staff want or need the most. Incentives don’t have to be pay based. People are also motivated by recognition, giving them more hours / or work, allowing more flexibility, benefits, etc . You want to design your incentives around what you think drives them to give you their very best.

c) Design an incentive that will reward your staff for each of the behaviors listed in (a).

d) Put together a document that describes each incentive and exactly how each works.

e) Distribute to existing staff and give to prospective staff at initial interviews. You may also want to talk to them as a group or individually to get their feedback and make sure they understand each incentive.

f) Track your results. Are you getting better behavior from your staff? Are they earning the incentives that you offer? If you find they are not interested in obtaining the bonuses you offer, ask them what bonuses they would prefer. Modify your plan if you feel they are reasonable.

Incentive plans can really benefit both you and your staff.

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