Reward Choices Matter: Make a Lasting Impression and Increase ROI

Rewarding and recognizing employees is more important than ever as employers struggle to keep employees motivated and engaged in a work-from-home environment. Reward choices matter. In any economy, the right rewards can make a lasting impression on your workforce and increase the return on your program investment.


In any properly structured employee incentive, reward or recognition program, it’s important to get employee input. Inviting employee representatives to weigh in on the goals of the program and the tools and training necessary to achieve those goals will increase ownership of those goals. One area in which you may not want to invite employee input is the question of whether to use cash or tangible rewards.


When asked, the majority of employees may say that they want cash (or similarly bad motivators like pre-paid/gift cards) rewards, but there are many reasons why cash should not be used in employee incentive, reward and recognition programs:


  • Cash is not a long-term motivator. Studies show that program participants perform at higher levels for tangible, merchandise rewards.

  • Cash is often confused with compensation (in fact, it’s often distributed exactly like compensation).

  • Cash is taxed to the employee the same as compensation.

  • Employees are reluctant to share details of a cash reward, but often share info when they receive a merchandise reward or experience. This is residual value for the sponsoring company and also contributes to higher employee engagement.

  • Top performing companies use tangible name-brand merchandise more often as employee rewards.

  • Name-brand merchandise offers a higher perceived value to the employee yet is purchased at a discount by the company (when purchased as part of a comprehensive program from an incentive solution provider).


While it does make sense to get employee feedback on the structure of the program (what types of behaviors will be rewarded, how recognition will be delivered, etc.), when it comes to the awards themselves, the sponsoring company should be controlling the choices offered, and they should choose tangible & experiential awards to insure their program delivers lasting change. An Incentive Professional can design the program or guide internal program designers through best practices, including top reward choices for their industry and workforce demographics. Tangible rewards that are earned by your workforce will be appreciated, and most importantly the company and the reason the award was earned (safety, wellness, sales, etc.), will be remembered every time the employee uses that item.


Employee incentive, reward and recognition programs provide a number of financial and non-financial benefits for organizations. Ensuring that you have a targeted reward selection will maximize the effectiveness of the program.


When it comes to employee reward selection, companies should take advantage of an Incentive Professional’s expertise and the research that proves that tangible & experiential rewards are the most effective and offer the highest return on investment.


Brian Galonek


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