A “Viral” Bonus Plan: Could It Work For Your Organization?

Who is in a better position to identify your company’s top performers – management or their peer employees?

IGN Entertainment, a division of News Corp. that creates content and communities for gaming, has developed a unique profit sharing system which allows employees themselves to help determine of much of the unit’s profits should go to each worker.

Called “viral pay,” IGN’s system was profiled in a recent Fast Company article:

Twice a year, in January and July, IGN creates a basket of tokens (called “Tokens of Appreciation”) based on how much profit there is to share. It distributes the tokens among employees and has them give their tokens–which are worth $1 each–to whatever other employees they want, as recognition for a job well done.

So, for example, if there’s someone in ad sales who went above and beyond to help you on particular campaign, you might toss some tokens their way. Of if there’s a developer who you think always comes up with great ideas about how to solve particular engineering problems, you might send them a little token love as well. Employees can give all their tokens to the same person, but they usually divide them up among several people.

There are only three rules to the program, Greg Silva, IGN’s vice president of “People and Places” (HR and facilities), tells Fast Company: You can’t award any tokens to yourself, all tokens have to be given away, and IGN’s president (the organization’s chief executive) isn’t eligible.”

Identifying your “unsung heroes”

Silva notes that, in addition to confirming who the star performers are, the program helps identify the “unsung heroes” whose work may not be in the spotlight, but who are considered indispensible by their peers. And because IGN publicizes the number of tokens received by top employees as well as the average amount allocated overall, it has also turned out to be a motivator for lesser performers who are inspired to figure out why they got so few tokens and to do better in the next round.

The net result: an interesting combination of peer-to-peer recognition and cash profit sharing.

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Would this work in your organization?

Come see Ann Bares talk about A Look at How We Reward the Work of  Today — and Tomorrow at TLNT’s Transform conference in Austin, TX Feb. 26-28, 2012. Click here for more information on attending this event. 

This was originally published on Ann Bares’ Compensation Force blog.

Ann Bares is the Managing Partner of Altura Consulting Group. She has over 20 years of experience consulting in compensation and performance management and has worked with a variety of organizations in auditing, designing and implementing executive compensation plans, base salary structures, variable and incentive compensation programs, sales compensation programs, and performance management systems.

Her clients have included public and privately held businesses, both for-profit and not-for-profit organizations, early stage entrepreneurial organizations and larger established companies. Ann also teaches at the University of Minnesota and Concordia University.

Contact her at abares@alturaconsultinggroup.com.


1 Comment on “A “Viral” Bonus Plan: Could It Work For Your Organization?

  1. I love this.  My first job post-college was an atmosphere like this.  The CIO would often ask that all of us prepare a few words to discuss who helped us accomplish a major goal.  We did this twice a year at his staff meeting.  Though our primary team was small, we often worked with employees across the organization.  It was great to give kudos.
    I often find it sad that more organizations don’t subscribe to this type of thinking.  After that job, I have always kept giving kudos to colleagues.  People are usually very surprised someone thanked them or gave them recognition (in front of their manager) without looking for some type of “gain” in return.  It has made my relationships very strong and I’ve met really great people as a result of keeping this practice.

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