Incentive Pay

How To Calculate Incentive Pay

June 3, 2022
min read

An incentive pay/bonus is a highly effective tool in raising employee morale, overall performance and clearly communicates to your team that their contributions are valued and you genuinely care about their success. 

Yet, how do you correctly calculate incentive pay? This guide will help you understand this process and will provide applicable examples to clearly illustrate the concept. 

What Is Incentive Pay?

Incentive pay is a performance-based reward in which the company sets a goal/target/objective, and employees are awarded once they achieve or exceed these expectations. 

This reward can come in a variety of forms such as monetary recognition, equity, paid time off or even physical gifts. 

There are typically two categories of incentive pay - casual or structured incentives. 

Casual Incentives

This type of reward can be granted to employees at any time to recognize them for exceptional performance. This is the most accessible form of incentive pay - there are no pre-established benchmarks or objectives and it’s usually rewarded through a small payment, voucher or even a gift

Structured Incentives

Structured incentives take an opposite direction as they are predetermined rewards that require carefully planning and execution. This reward method is centered around specific benchmarks and goals that employees must meet to be eligible for the incentive.  

These goals are aligned with business objectives, such as certain sales goals or customer service ratings, and require formal procedure, clear communication with employees and consistent progress monitoring to be successful.

Who Can Get Incentive Pay?

Commonly, the company and employer determines the criteria for incentive compensation and then extends it to individual employees, but it’s also possible to create plans for teams of any size or even for your company as a whole.

Why Does Incentive Pay Matter?

Incentive pay is successful in boosting productivity and team morale through the “all for one, one for all” atmosphere it creates. Employees truly feel like their contributions matter when they’re being regularly recognized for them and are valued for the efforts they make.

Incentive pay is also productive in increasing employee loyalty and creating a deeper connection between the company and their team, which will only have a positive effect on the organization’s success. 

How To Calculate Incentive Pay (With Examples!)

We are focusing on monetary compensation but it’s helpful to keep in mind that incentive rewards can come in different forms such as through gifts or paid time off. 

Read below to understand the steps you’ll need to take to implement a successful incentive pay plan in your company. 

Step 1: Understand Your Business

To determine the best incentive pay plan, it’s important to understand how your company defines success and the plans that are in place to achieve it. 

Having a concrete objective and idea of what is valuable to the company will help you align incentive pay plans with your business strategy. 


  • Goal: We want to increase our customer satisfaction rating.
  • Method: Customer representatives should obtain a 4-star rating.
  • Reward: A 2% incentive pay bonus, based on their regular salary, for obtaining a 4-star rating.

Related: How Is Incentive Pay Tax Calculated For Employees?

Step 2: Value Your Employees

Many companies make the mistake of offering high-value incentive pay but continue to give employees a low base salary. 

For this reward system to be effective, you need to determine your people’s values and set them up for success so they don’t feel the need to cut corners to make financial progress in the company. 

Team meeting

Step 3: Choose Between Team Or Individual Incentives

Incentive pay for individual employees is definitely the most common form, but team compensation can be equally effective in building a collaborative environment, encouraging higher productivity and forming a tight-knit team. 

Consider how your company is structured and whether it would make sense to award an individual or opt towards team-based incentive pay.

Step 4: Decide On A Percentage Or Fixed-Amount

Your next step is to decide whether you’ll be rewarding employees with a percentage-based incentive or a fixed amount. It’s common for companies to opt for a percentage-based incentive pay as employees can find it more rewarding. 

When you decide on the appropriate bonus, consider the employee’s salary and wage amounts (it’s a good idea to look at previous year’s figures to better understand financial realities). 

Remember that incentive pay is taxable unless you categorize it as a De Minimis fringe benefit.            

Step 5: Calculate The Incentive Pay

Finally, it’s time to calculate incentive pay. Let’s assume that you went with the industry standard of percentage-based incentive pay. 

Here are the steps for calculation:

  1. Determine the employee’s base salary.
  2. Determine the incentive pay percentage.
  3. Multiply the employee’s base salary with the incentive pay salary.

For Example:

An employee earns $50,000 annually and the incentive pay percentage is 3%. You will use this calculation to find the incentive pay:

  • $50,000 x .0.3 = $1,500

Thus, the employee will earn $50,000 as a base salary with an additional $1,500 as incentive pay after achieving the agreed-upon objectives.

The Pros and Cons Of Incentive Pay

Although incentive pay has many benefits, it’s not always advantageous. Here are the pros and cons of implementing an incentive pay plan: 


  • Boosts employee morale 
  • Improves productivity 
  • Increased targets being regularly achieved  
  • Helps the business achieve its goals 


  • Incentives can risk distrust and conflict in the workplace
  • Incentives can create uncertainty in employees 
  • Incentives may not always lead to increased revenue 

Before implementing an incentive pay plan, do your research to determine if it’ll benefit your specific organization and your set of unique employees.


Incentive pay can be highly beneficial for organizations in the way that it improves productivity and boosts employee morale and retention. Not only will employees find a new avenue for job satisfaction, your business as a whole will experience improved goal accomplishments.

Incentive pay will always be a useful method for conveying employee appreciation. Your people will be fulfilled with the rewards available to them and you can use this method to create a loyal team who will stand by your organization in the long-run.

Similar posts

Check out our other articles on
Incentive Pay

Start sending incredible gifts.

Request a demo to see how PerkUp works for you.
Thank you! Your submission has been received!
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.
No set up fee
Cancel at any time