May 13, 2019

10 Ideas to Make a Big Difference with Employee Rewards

No matter the scale, the size or the niche your business operates in, chances are that your employees are a big part of why it is as successful as it is. This is why employees should always be rewarded for their efforts and commitment in one way or another.

According to studies, 65% of employees prefer non-cash reward incentives with 47% expressing that they want to be rewarded spontaneously and with little to no fanfare. However, only 14% of organizations provide their upper management with reward systems and tracking tools, with only 37% admitting that they take all employees into consideration in terms of rewardability.

The fact of the matter is that it is not always about the yearly income or bonuses – rewards can take many shapes and sizes. With that in mind, let’s take a look at several great ideas for employee rewards which can make a big difference for your internal culture and overall productivity.

Benefits of Employee Rewards

Before we get into how you can improve your employee reward systems, it’s worth noting why the addition of such a system can be beneficial. Employees whose work is rewarded on a productivity basis will likely perform much better both individually and in a group environment going forward. With that said, an employee reward system’s benefits include but are not limited to:

  • Higher Employee Retention

Employee retention is a large issue in today’s modern, high-speed society. Employees often change companies based on their place of residence, family status, professional development and other factors. Adequate employee rewards which cover those needs will allow you to retain high-quality talent in your company for extended periods, thus improving your employee retention rates across the board.

  • Improved Internal Culture

Employee relations play a big part in a company’s overall development and growth. Reward systems which objectively praise productive and successful employees without selection or discrimination can truly transform your office space. Satisfied employees will spread positive word of mouth about your management standards and attract more stakeholders to your door through sheer positivity and satisfaction with their employment.

  • Leadership Nurturing

Lastly, every company should look for opportunities to groom employees for leadership roles in management as well as to specialize them for certain roles and departments. Employee reward systems can introduce a spirit of growth and competition among your staff members, ensuring that they want to become more goal-oriented and develop professionally. This will create a leadership pool for your HR department to choose from in regards to promotions and cross-department transfers depending on individual employee’s wishes and competencies.

Making a Difference with Employee Rewards

1. Weekly Employee Highlights

One of the easiest ways to introduce employee rewards to your office space is to implement employee highlights. These can be done on a weekly, biweekly, monthly or quarterly basis depending on the scale of your business and number of employees on the roster. Make sure to highlight more than one employee in each reward cycle, with an emphasis on different product categories.

For example, Mark can get a “Best Overall Performance” reward while Karen can also get “Best Customer Support Agent” reward at the same time. The clothing retailer Zappos is a great example of how you can introduce monthly employee reward cycles to your office space.

Create a list of 3 to 5 reward titles unique to your business and let your managers track the employees’ progress throughout the cycle. Pool your results and post employee rewards for the entire company to see on your website, entrance hall or other predominant spaces.

2. Unexpected Leave of Absence

Everyone likes days off and leaves of absence, especially if there are no catches involved. This can be used as a great baseline for your employee reward system in terms of high RoI on what you actually spend on it. For example, Ultimate Software is a company that treats its employees to vacation time and full-fledged travel every two or so years depending on their performance.

This is done unexpectedly, without announcing anything weeks in advance for employees to chew on. Instead, these rewards can come suddenly and every time an employee shows commitment, productivity and loyalty to the company. Again, managers should be made aware of the fact that they should track employee performance and report on their findings for the reward system to take place.

3. Employee Anniversaries

The longer an employee is under your employment, the more chances your managerial staff will have to get to know them. Important dates such as birthdays, employment anniversaries and others can be celebrated with small, internal gifts and treats.

You don’t need to spend large amounts of resources to cater to each employee’s specific preferences. However small things such as a pineapple-flavored cake for Michael who is a fan of pineapples work wonders for morale. This type of reward will have a positive effect on everyone in the department or the company (depending on its scale), so make sure to explore the possibility in greater detail.

4. Company-Wide Achievement Board

Permanent achievements made by individuals within a company should always be highlighted and rewarded accordingly. A good example of this practice can be found in Robert W. Baird & Co. which offers permanent stock and company investment to exemplary employees.

An achievement board can be used to highlight employees who have shown exemplary success in their job positions, changed important company production pipelines and affected others around them. These achievements are unique in nature and should only be recognized by managers and the upper echelon of the company as transformative for the business.

As such, they deserve the highest praise and a permanent exhibit on a company-wide achievement board for employees and visitors to see. Employees whose names, titles and faces are displayed on the achievement board will know that their place in the company is important and worth fighting for even more than previously, solidifying your employee reward system as an effective productivity tool.

5. R&R Break Room Development

Employee rewards don’t have to be individualized and centered on specific staff members. Instead, you can emphasize teamwork and solidarity by introducing team-based reward systems for your employees. A great example of this could be the ongoing development of a joint break room for everyone to use freely.

Items such as an espresso machine, a plasma TV or lazy bags can be literally “earned” through a series of performance-based activities. If all employees work for the benefit of their company and focus on singular objectives which lead to the betterment of their business, the break room will receive further updates and additions. This is a great way to boost teamwork and morale across the board without placing any one employee on the proverbial pedestal.

6. Management Thank-You Notes

You might think that small thank-you notes don’t do justice to your employees’ commitment but you would be wrong to think so. Employees, especially those on the junior level, always look for some form of recognition by the upper echelon of the company.

Simple appreciation notes based on their productivity, commitment, years of employment and other variables can go a long way in ensuring their ongoing employment. The company Net App utilizes a similar thank-you system in which board members and CEO often thank employees in person for their time with their company. This type of camaraderie is often lost in the corporate sector and it can have hugely positive effects on your employees without requiring any additional costs or resources for it to work.

7. Choices of Seminars

Professional development opportunities play a big role in whether or not employees will retain their positions or look for a new career opportunity. In that regard, you should make it possible for employees to choose among a plethora of development seminars, events, conferences, trainings and other opportunities. These can come as rewards for productivity and commitment or simply for certain periods of time under your employment.

You should always make it possible for individual staff members to pick which events to attend among two or more choices, however. Don’t push single choices into their hands as rewards since their professional development will also serve your company just as much as them. Create a choice-based development system based on productivity and it will undoubtedly be seen as an adequate reward system.

8. VIP Tickets & Events

On a more casual note, employees have private lives, hobbies and lifestyles. You can play the “friendly employer” card just as easily by introducing a reward system based on popular events, concerts, festivals and other happenings.

Similar to professional development, you should make several choices available to your employees at any given moment in order to create a sense of freedom and choice. You can also introduce VIP seats to sports games, family tickets to sports camps and other rewards which lead to a greater sense of belonging and acceptance for employees.

9. Company-Wide Team-Building

Employees often think themselves below the upper management, despite being the same in terms of rights and background. However, a good way to level the playfield every once in a while, is to introduce company-wide team-building activities to the office. his space can be used not only as an employee reward system but also as a way to illustrate that every employee is the same in terms of importance to the company.

Such problems are often present in large companies where employees often don’t see CEOs or board members for weeks on end, further distancing them from any form of meaning and importance. Team-building activities can be anything from cooking and having lunch together, doing physical exercises or competing in video games with the entire company staff present.

10. Ask them Directly

Lastly, you can ask your employees directly about the types of rewards, incentives and employment benefits they would like to see. Prepare to hear different and unexpected responses however since not every employee will have a realistic image of what is possible or not.

Realistic suggestions will always find their way to your HR department and allow them to come up with a mutually-beneficial solution. That way, employees will feel a greater sense of importance since their suggestions have been taken into serious consideration and found their implementation in the employee reward system. Communicate with your staff members and find out what they like and dislike – it’s one of the best ways to craft a reward system which will bring concrete results and change to your company.

In Conclusion

The difference within your employee structure will only come if you take time to assess the current situation and identify critical bottlenecks. Don’t blame your employees for lack of productivity or morale in terms of 9-to-5 work hours with little to look forward to in terms of benefits or development. Add a human element to their employment activities and your internal culture will bloom as a result.

Bridgette Hernandez