5 Best Practices in Employee Recognition and Rewarding

Employee recognition and rewarding programs are vital components of employee motivation, satisfaction, and retention. According to recent data, employees want more than money and monetary rewards; they want genuine appreciation for the hard work that they do. Creating a company culture that celebrates workplace achievements should become a common practice at the workplace. Today, we will look at some of the best practices executives should consider when they build sustainable recognition and rewarding programs.

1. Make the Difference between Merit Pay and Recognition/Rewarding

According to recent data, managers revealed that recognition helps to create a positive workplace, company culture, and employee experience. About 80% of surveyed companies declared they had a recognition/reward program in place, and more than 50% reported that their program positively affected retention (68%). However, what do they reward, when, and how?

The salary system and merit pay should be separate from recognition and reward systems. While many execs mistake the concept for one another, reward programs should differentiate from raises, bonuses, and other monetary awards. In the design of your recognition and reward program, you should factor in the following:

  • Identify the company’s or employees’ needs that your program will support;
  • Select the employees’ achievements or desired employee performance/behaviors that the program will support in compliance with the company’s goals;
  • Determine the key indicators/measurements for employees’ achievements or behaviors that will receive support from your program as they reinforce the company’s goals;
  • Make sure the rewards measure up to the degree of effort of your employees;
  • Pick the types of awards that align with the company’s mission, vision, and benchmarks, so you should select the appropriate ones;
  • Consider what your employees need, wish for, and work for when you design the program. Factor in their backgrounds, personalities, and feedback. It is pointless to invest in luxury goods when your people want more free time with their families.
  • Communicate the program in an understandable, transparent manner to all employees.

Keep in mind that minor incentives or insincere appreciation are counterproductive for a reward system. A robust, timely, and lengthy recognition & appreciation program should contain praising systems and awards that go beyond the regular “Atta boy!” or an end-of-year generic bonus for everyone.

2. The Delivery of the Rewards Should be Timely, Personalized, and Unforgettable

While a recognition and reward program should be well funded and managed, so that employees enjoy individualized and memorable awards, it is costly and unproductive for large organizations to invest in hundreds of different rewards for hundreds of different people. On the other hand, one size does not fit all. So, here are some ideas on how to deliver the rewards in a timely, unforgettable, and personalized manner!

2.1. Corporate Gifts that Matter

Forget about offering your employees branded pens or generic mouse pads. In the spirit of your recognition and reward program, you should consider that you are saying both “thank you for your hard work” and “keep up the good work” at the same time.

One of the best ideas you can try is to offer holiday turkeys for your employees. Few people expect such a reward, so you will win originality points with this one. Moreover, this type of a gift saves people  time, money, and effort with holiday shopping and preparations, offering them more quality time with their families. As we said above, a reward should reinforce achievements and behaviors. Holiday turkeys and other similar corporate gifts with an original, unique flair to them will meet your employees’ needs, make an immediate impact on their life.

2.2. Experiences that Matter

When it comes to rewards, you should think outside the box of holidays, birthdays, company achievements, anniversaries, or employees’ achievements/behaviors. Your plan should also include timed rewards (at the end of a lengthy, challenging project, as an example). These rewards come from the realm of experiences, not items. Examples can include a bonus vacation for the employee and their family, a paid hobby class (cooking, photography, scuba diving, etc.), life coaching sessions, a gym membership, and so on.

3. The Program Should Reinforce Company’s Mission, Vision, and Goals

We said it before, but we’re gonna say it again: nothing demotivates employees more than the management’s inconsistency when it comes to who/what deserves rewards and who/what doesn’t. If the company declares that some work is significant, but then it rewards other things, your program loses its credibility.

Build a clear, objective, and fair recognition and reward program. Otherwise, you risk praising somebody for doing you a small work favor and forgetting about the employee delivering the results you wanted for the past two years. Such discrepancies lead to frustration and even conflict, so tread carefully.

4. You Should Not Skip the Different Types of Recognitions and Rewards

Most managers are focused on the awards they have to give out and the best times to provide them. However, they should not skip an important aspect: the “how.” One of the biggest challenges in entrepreneurship is keeping your employees happy and making them feel their work matters. So here are the issues you should not forget:

  • Recognition should have both a public component and a personal one. You should offer public commendations, corporate gifts, and achievement awards for one or more employees in public, together with an internal newsletter praising those particular efforts, works, or achievements. Personal recognition means the praise of an employee during a one-on-one meeting with the manager or a personalized evaluation & feedback session.
  • Rewards should have both a monetary and personal side to it. Besides corporate gifts, team buildings, membership subscriptions, workshops, etc., you should focus on the things that make each employee happy. It can mean flexible hours, some personal bonus days off, upgraded health insurance, etc.

5. Re-Evaluate the Program Consistently

If you poorly implement such a program, you inadvertently risk many unwanted consequences. For this reason, you should be re-evaluating the program consistently. Ask yourself these questions every couple of months:

  • Does the program help employees, or did it just split them into “winners” and “losers”?
  • Are the program’s rewards accessible to all employees, competitive, fair, adequate, and aligned with the company’s goals?
  • Does the program enhance employee motivation and satisfaction, or did it demotivate some employees along the way?
  • Are there celebrations?
  • Does your program “condition” good behavior, or does it genuinely promote initiative, performance, creativity, and cohesion?
  • What can you do to improve the program?

Bottom Line

If you never implemented a recognition & reward program before, take your time with it and learn how to do it before it backfires. Sending a generic “Bravo!” email to all your employees, offering them a bottle of wine as a Christmas present, or putting new items on the cafeteria menu are just small beginner steps. If the program is not meaningful for your employees, and if it doesn’t praise achievements and encourages healthy competitiveness, you risk alienating your employees. Think and work smartly with these types of programs, and you will reap the benefits of employee loyalty, engagement, and retention!


Feature Image by Werner Heiber from Pixabay