Motivation Baked Right In

By Malcolm Fleschner

Nowadays, when it comes to incentive programs, creativity counts. In the increasingly frenetic and sensory overloaded 21st century work environment, management looking to capture employees’ attention need to do more than toss recycled motivational carrots in front of their work force and expect results.

At the same time, the creativity of all employees has become increasingly significant to many companies’ success. As a result, today’s more forward-thinking managers are expanding the scope of incentive programs to reward both sales and nonsales employees. One such organization is The Earthgrains Company of St. Louis.

America’s second-largest packaged bread baker, Earthgrains is among the nation’s fastest-growing wholesale baking companies. Recently the company wanted to develop an incentive program directed specifically at route drivers who play a key role in generating sales success and operational efficiency. Route drivers typically work long hours, so keeping them motivated is a critical management objective.

For help with program design, the company turned to American Express Incentive Services. Steve Mura, Earthgrains’ manager of event marketing and consumer promotions, says he wanted a reward that would be both memorable and motivational for all the route drivers, who don’t fall into easy demographic breakdowns.

“I wanted to offer a reward that fit our route drivers’ different lifestyles,” Mura explains. “We used to give away trips, but I was not convinced trips were the best way to reward employees. They were difficult to set up, and the administration and logistics were a nightmare. I also didn’t think rewarding one person in a drawing for a cruise motivated the masses.”

For a prize, Earthgrains opted for American Express reward cards that allowed the more than 5,000 potential recipients to redeem the points they’d earned at more than 190 retail, travel and entertainment establishments. The cards also allowed the drivers the flexibility to shop in-store, online or over the telephone.

The program, titled Display-Dough, encouraged drivers to exercise their on-the-job creativity when building in-store bread displays. Drivers were asked to photograph their displays and submit the pictures for judging. Points were awarded for the best displays.

Mura considers this program setup an improvement over what Earthgrains had done in the past because of the wider reward distribution. Plus, he adds, the AEIS reward cards dramatically lowered administration costs and unexpected fees.

“With this reward structure we were able to reward many more drivers,” he says. “It is nice to give 90% to 95% of the program budget right back to the drivers. My goal is to move product, energize the field and increase job satisfaction. The AEIS reward card accomplished all of these things and made my job easier.”