Alternative Compensation Plans

This article has been adapted from Developing a Compensation Plan for Your Library, chapter 10: Trends, by Paula Singer, ©2002 by the American Library Association. Developing a Compensation Plan for Your Library is available from the ALA Store at You may contact Paula Singer at

In light of increased financial pressures, organizational redesign, a competitive labor market, an increasingly diverse workforce, and a design to focus on the top performers in your workforce, it may be time to consider altering your compensation program or perhaps adding options. Compensation strategies are going beyond market equity and internal fairness. Some recent innovations include noncash incentives, skill- and competency-based pay, gain sharing/success sharing, temporary or supplemental pay, broad-banding, and pay-for-performance plans. In this and the next two issues of Library Worklife,these alternative strategies will be explored. This month, noncash incentives are the focus, in preparation for National Library Workers Day.

Noncash Incentives

Noncash awards can be given “on the spot” or as a thank you for a job well done. They are not expensive and are easy to customize to employee preference. Noncash bonuses are excellent motivators: research indicates that you will receive a three-to-one payback. That is, for each dollar spent on the incentive, the library will receive $3 back in time, energy, or production from the employee. These incentives should be based on what the employee values, not what you or anyone else might like to have. Fro example, an opera lover may not appreciate tickets to a rock concert, and a vegetarian is not likely to be motivated by a fancy dinner in a steakhouse.

Examples of noncash and low-cash awards you might offer include:

  • Administrators may serve up ice cream sundaes when a team pulls together to complete a project on time

  • Restaurant gift certificates

  • Certificate for a manicure/massage/haircut

  • Free parking/metro pass (for month, quarter, or year—depending on project/impact)

  • $25 to $50 cash or rewards program gift certificate

  • Training opportunity

  • “One day work from home” award

  • Afternoon off award for which the manager does the employee’s work and the employee returns to a clean desk and no messages

  • Award presentation during department meeting/breakfast/luncheon/board meeting/staff day

  • Variety of small gifts (personalized pens, gourmet coffee sampler, picture frame)

  • Cookies/donuts/pizza for the department

  • Movie tickets

  • Pickup game lunch (Trivial Pursuit, Pictionary, etc.)

  • Tickets to sporting events

  • Bowling/shopping party

  • Pay a student to wash the employee’s car

  • 15–20 minute seated massage in the office for all employees

  • Free health club membership (for a month, quarter, year)

  • Home cleaning or lawn service voucher for one or more visits

In the next issue, skills/knowledge-based pay, success sharing, and supplemental pay will be described.