Workplace Recognition and Incentive Programs


Posted on June 7, 2010 by Carl Bonura in Uncategorized


A company’s success is in the hands of its people. When they’re motivated, it will make a difference to the business and the bottom line. Employee reward programs are among the top strategies to build a motivated workforce. Employee rewards increase focus, a key to reinforcing desired behaviors and developing new habits; in addition, rewards in the workplace build a connection between meeting personal and professional goals.


Businesses face a wealth of choices when designing an employee reward system. One of the most popular formats is a points-based accumulation program, because it enables participants to earn points and choose from a wide variety of trips, merchandise and services as their rewards.

In addition to this flexibility for the participant, points-based accumulation plans also enable flexibility to the sponsoring company. Businesses can select the types of rewards offered to ensure that they align with the corporate values and personality. Thus, an employee reward program can be customized to fit a company and its people, ensuring the reinforcement of the values and the likelihood that each participant will find many personally meaningful options from among the rewards offered.

There is another, perhaps surprising, benefit that comes with rewards and other points-based accumulation plans: better ROI. Recent research indicates that nonmonetary rewards in the workplace consistently deliver better return on investment than cash awards.

Offering meaningful rewards is one of the most important ways to optimize the success of employee’s reward program. When every employee has a tangible reward in mind, their energies will shift toward achieving that reward. They’ll keep that reward in mind, make decisions that get them closer to their goal, and use their mental picture of their reward as inspiration when facing an obstacle or challenge. Thus, it’s important that a company understands its people and know – and can offer – the employee rewards that will motivate them.

Before starting any employee reward program the company must ask itself two questions:

1. How many employees will be positively reinforced by this program?

2. How many will be negatively impacted by it?


Monetary rewards:

Profit sharing

Project bonuses

Stock options

Managers argue that monetary rewards encourage compliance rather than risk-taking because most rewards are based only on performance. As a result, employees are discouraged from being creative in the workplace.

Another argument states that monetary rewards may be used to circumvent problems in the workplace. For example, incentives to boost sales can be used to compensate for poor management. Employers also may use monetary incentives as an extrinsic rather than an intrinsic motivator. In other words, employees are driven to do things just for the monetary reward versus doing something because it is the right thing to do. This can disrupt or terminate good relationships between employees because they are transformed from co-workers to competitors, which can quickly disrupt the workplace environment.

Non – Monetary rewards:

Generational non-monetary reward differences are affected by career stage and proximity to retirement. The older the employee, the more the focus is placed on retirement and the meaningfulness of the emotional connection made with the company. The younger the employee, the more the focus is placed on job satisfaction (opportunities to grow) and the work environment (work/life ba
lance). The bottom line is that incentives must be tailored to the needs of the workers rather than using the “one-size-fits-all” approach, which is impersonal and often ineffective.

On-the-Spot Awards

Manager-to-Peer Recognition

Nominated Recognition

Employee Appreciation


Employee of the Month / Year

Peer-to-Peer Recognition


Non-monetary incentives desired by different generations of employees:

Research suggests that desired monetary incentives differ for employees based on career stage and generation. Surveys by the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP) have shown that most workers will work past retirement age if offered flexible schedules, part-time hours, and temporary employment (Nelson, 1999).